No. 11 Kansas survived a scare against No. 19 Oklahoma on Monday. The Jayhawks led 51-32 at halftime but actually trailed late in the second half before pulling out an 85-78 win at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
“We had a great first half shooting the ball,” Jayhawks forward Perry Ellis said on Ferrall on the Bench. “They’re a great team, so in the second half, they made some big shots. But overall, we fought. We fought at the end of the game, and we overcame.”
Ellis finished with 16 points and eight rebounds while playing a team-high 35 minutes.
“It was getting to me at the end,” Ellis said of his heavy workload, “but the crowd picked me up. They picked me up at the end. The Fieldhouse was rocking, so that helped us.”
Kansas led by as many as 20 points in the first half bur trailed 71-70 in the second, as four Sooners starters – Buddy Held (26 points), Isaiah Cousins (18), Ryan Spangler (13) and Jordan Woodard (10) – finished in double figures.
“They’re a great team,” Ellis said. “They got some great players, some great scorers, and they made some plays down the stretch. They made some plays and it happens. Every team’s coming out and competing.”
Kansas, however, was the more balanced team. Oklahoma got just seven bench points, while Kansas got 31, including 12 points from Brannen Greene, who hit three three-pointers, and 13 points and 13 rebounds from Cliff Alexander.
“(Greene) definitely hit a big (three) late in the game,” Ellis said. “And Cliff, he got some great rebounds at the end, which led to some of those good shots. They definitely played a good game.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a team-high 19 points for Kansas, adding nine rebounds and two steals for good measure. Frank Mason III, meanwhile, scored 10 points and was one of three Jayhawks to finish with four assists.
Kansas (15-3) rebounded nicely after falling, 86-81, at No. 11 Iowa State on Saturday.
“I would say transition really killed us that game,” Ellis said. “We weren’t getting back like we needed to. They got a lot of baskets on that, and that really hurt us in the end.”
The Jayhawks host the rematch with Iowa State on Feb. 2, but they’ve got a couple of tough games before then: at No. 17 Texas (14-4) on Jan. 24, at TCU (14-4) on Jan. 28 and against Kansas State (11-7) on Jan. 31.
“We got to get ready,” Ellis said. “We’re going to get ready for Texas next to go down there and compete. It’s going to be tough. We’re looking forward to it.”
With a 4-1 conference record, Kansas is tied atop the Big 12 with Kansas State. There’s still a long way to go, however, especially with six Big 12 teams ranked in the Top 25.
“It’s definitely a stacked, stacked conference,” Ellis said. “Every team’s coming out and giving their best, so we have to make sure we’re focused every single game.”