A few hours after I wrote this column about the two sides to the Kansas basketball team, it occurred to me how unnaturally the Jayhawks’ 85-78 victory over Oklahoma developed Monday night.
If you’d had pegged Kansas for a seven-point victory (the Jayhawks were favored by 4 1/2), a reasonable progression might have been the teams trading blows for much of the first half with Kansas taking a small halftime lead.
Then KU extends that lead to double digits early in the second half, but the talented Sooners won’t go away, cutting it to a manageable deficit before the Jayhawks ice it at the line.
Every game creates its own identity, but Monday offered some of the wildest swings you’ll see.
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Kansas led by 19 at halftime. According to the victory probability chart devised by analyst Ken Pomeroy, the Jayhawks had a 92.3 percent chance of winning the game.
And the chart doesn’t take into account the game was played at Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas entered the night on a 17-game home winning streak. And Bill Self’s record in the building was 183-9.
The Jayhawks had built that lead on the strength of three-point shooting, making eight straight to start the game. The KU media guide reports only one better shooting start in school history, a 1994 game at North Carolina State when the Jayhawks made all nine in the first half.
An unlikely shooting performance created a wider-than-expected margin in a game between two teams that appeared evenly matched.
Once the Jayhawks cooled off, Oklahoma roared back. KU missed nine of its next 11 threes, and with 11:02 remaining, the Sooners had caught up, 56-56. OU’s fourth straight three-pointer tied the game.
A 19-point deficit erased in 8:58! Incredible.
The Sooners led 69-65 with 4:56 remaining, and according to the same Pomeroy chart, Oklahoma now had a 75.3 percent chance to win.
Here, Kansas had its best defensive possessions of the game. The Sooners missed seven of their last eight shots, often forcing rushed, off-balanced attempts.
“The basket got thimble-sized for us the first 15 minutes of the second half, and looked like a big water tub for them,” Self said.
That’s how 20-point leads can become four-point deficits.