On senior night in Allen Fieldhouse, a sold-out crowd of 16,300 Jayhawks fans filled the legendary basketball venue in the final seconds with chants of âRockchalk-Jayhawkâ after Kansas overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to down the Oklahoma Sooners, 73-63.
Kansas, which already secured its 13th consecutive Big 12 title this week, had little to play for other than pride in sending out the seniors out in style. It seems that was more than enough motivation to close out the game in style and shutting the door on what was an otherwise OU-dominated night on both ends of the floor.
Senior Frank Mason finished with a game-high 23 points, and led the furious 31-9 Jayhawks rally to close the game. When the Jayhawks fell behind by 12, it was Mason who shouldered the load, as he has done all season. KU was begging for life in the second half, and Mason was there to turn the pressure up on defense and rejuvenate the stagnant offense. When KU couldnât buy a bucket during a late drought, Mason was there to swoop in and seal it with a quick pull-up jumper. He feels the pulse of the game better than anyone in the country, and he stepped up when the Jayhawks needed it.
drpetey15: Frank Mason is good ESPN SportsCenter https://t.co/T4fekq7692pic.twitter.com/oZ1CDY600s— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) February 28, 2017
For Kansas, this is what weâve become used to. Wins at Allen Fieldhouse are nearly automatic under Bill Self. So the story tonight was equally about Oklahoma, who had the Jayhawks chewing their nails to the skin late in the game.
The Sooners are a young team that was stripped of its Final Four core from a year ago. No Buddy Hield, no Ryan Spangler, no Isaiah Cousins. So a step back from last yearâs wildly successful team was to be expected. No one thought this team, relying on three freshman starters, would be capable of matching last seasons success.
But it sure has some promise.
Look, no Oklahoma fan is going to be jumping up and down at a 10-19 overall record. Nor will a 4-13 Big 12 record have Sooners fans rushing to Norman to grab season tickets. But taking the No. 1 team to the brink on the road in a place like Allen Fieldhouse is worth something, even if itâs a loss. The fact that it is far from an NCAA tournament bid yet still fighting like hell to the end says everything you need to know about the culture at OU and what Lon Kruger has instilled.
OUâs a solid program built for success, and it has a young, talented core to build around in Kam McGusty, Rashard Odomes, and Darrion Strong-Moore. All of the pieces are coming together, and look out when five-star point guard Trae Young arrives next season. The offense has a ton of weapons, and with Young set to fill Jordan Woodardâs giant shoes, I think they have a chance to take a huge leap forward.
Under Lon Kruger, the Sooners have proven they can be ultracompetitive even in a rebuilding season. Wins donât necessarily equal success, but their young playersâ never-say-die attitude is a win not marked. And it seems the blueprint for this team could amount to something special in the not-too-distant future.