Bill Self 'disappointed' by KU basketball's execution, toughness in loss to Oklahoma State

Matt Galloway
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas basketball's Christian Braun, left, and Tristan Enaruna, back, look on as Oklahoma State's Isaac Likekele, middle, and Rondel Walker celebrate a basket during the second half of Tuesday's game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. The No. 6-ranked Jayhawks lost 75-70.

Kansas basketball didn’t deserve to win Tuesday night’s tilt at Oklahoma State, and that’s an assertion that came straight from the mouth of Bill Self in the game's aftermath.

Still, the Jayhawks were in a position to do just that — until a calamitous final minute ensured the perennial Big 12 power will be playing catch-up in the league race for the foreseeable future.

“I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed,” said Self, speaking after the No. 6-ranked Jayhawks’ 75-70 defeat to the Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. “It’s a long season and we’re playing who we’re playing, all these things, but we always have a goal each year to win the league, and that goal has not vanished but certainly it’s getting to the point where there is less than zero margin for error moving forward.”

KU (10-3, 4-2 Big 12) couldn't get out of its own way Tuesday at game-point.

An improbable comeback erased a 16-point second-half deficit and briefly delivered a three-point lead to the visitors with just one minute remaining. But Isaac Likekele’s corner 3 knotted the score at 70, kick-starting an 8-0 run for the Cowboys to close it out. Marcus Garrett’s inbounds pass with 4.2 seconds left was intercepted by Oklahoma State’s Bryce Williams, whose dunk at the buzzer capped the signature victory for the program.

Williams' make accounted for the final two points in the Cowboys’ staggering 37-8 advantage in points in transition, further exposing what’s been a season-long bugaboo for these Jayhawks

“I’m not leaving out of here disappointed or mad or anything because we lost to an Oklahoma State team. I’m leaving out of here disappointed because of the reasons we lost to an Oklahoma State team,” Self said. “That’s on me more than the players. I’ve got to get the guys where we think a little tougher, because certainly pride and toughness are a big part of stopping people, and we’ve got to get better at that. I’ve got to demand more.”

KU trailed 65-49 with nine minutes left, but that’s when David McCormack and company ignited a 21-2 run that brought the Jayhawks all the way back. McCormack (24 points on 10-for-18 shooting, 12 rebounds) had eight points in that rally, including a midrange conversion that capped the stretch and secured a 73-70 lead with just 1:21 left.

But Likekele, a career 28% shooter from 3, then hit a corner trey to again lock the score.

“If Likekele doesn’t make that shot, we win the game. I would say there’s a 95% chance of that happening,” Self said. “But he did make the shot. It was a great shot by him.”

That’s when the wheels came off for KU. 

Garrett’s ill-advised driving layup attempt in traffic — with 40 seconds left, the Jayhawks were trying for a two-for-one — was rejected by the Cowboys’ superstar freshman Cade Cunningham (18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, seven rebounds), and just two seconds later, Rondel Walker put Oklahoma State (9-3, 3-3) in front with a transition layup through contact. Walker hit the subsequent free-throw try after Tristan Enaruna’s foul for a three-point lead.

Garrett was off on an attempted game-tying trey, but Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one to keep the Jayhawks’ hopes alive. Ochai Agbaji couldn’t connect on a pair of 3-point tries from the top of the key — he later acknowledged that he rushed his second attempt — and while KU maintained possession with 4.2 seconds left, Garrett’s inbounds pass to Christian Braun was intercepted by Williams to account for KU's 15th and final turnover.

Self said Garrett “underthrew (Braun) by 10 feet” and “didn’t put anything on the pass.”

“It’s not a great percentage play to think that you would make that shot,” Self said, “but it’s one that you’re disappointed you didn’t at least give yourself a chance.”

Williams’ flush gave the game its final margin.

“It’s nobody’s fault that Likekele made the shot. Tie game? Big deal. Two possessions to one possession. Percentages are still with us,” Self said. “And then we didn’t execute very well.”

KU was outscored 26-4 in fast break points in the first half, perhaps fortunate to only be down 46-35 at the break. A triangle-and-two zone defense deployed across the game’s final 10 minutes helped the Jayhawks finally clamp down on Cunningham and the Cowboys, but the team’s inability to provide any resistance across the contest's first 20 minutes proved the difference in the game, Self remarked.

Agbaji (14 points) and Garrett (12) rounded out the double-figure scorers for KU, with the former’s 4-for-9 outing on 3-point tries helping to offset his teammates’ combined 1-for-12 effort from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks lost the returning Bryce Thompson to a broken finger late in their 21-2 run, with Self expecting the guard to be “out a while” with the second significant injury of his freshman season.

KU, which had its record-tying streak of 11 straight Big 12 road victories snapped Tuesday, will return to action at 1 p.m. Saturday against Iowa State in Lawrence.

“We’ve just got to tighten up. We’ve got to play tougher. That’s my honest opinion,” Self said. “We don’t make other people play poorly, we hope they play poorly, and that’s not the way to live in this (sport).”

OKLAHOMA STATE 75, NO. 6 KANSAS 70

Kansas (10-3, 4-2 Big 12)

Garrett 6-12 0-0 12, Braun 3-7 0-0 7, Wilson 2-7 0-0 4, Agbaji 4-12 2-2 14, McCormack 10-18 4-4 24, Grant-Foster 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Enaruna 2-2 0-0 4, Thompson 0-3 2-2 2, Lightfoot 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 28-62 9-9 70.

Oklahoma State (9-3, 3-3 Big 12)

Anderson 5-6 3-3 14, Cunningham 6-12 3-4 18, Moncrieffe 2-5 2-2 6, Likekele 3-8 3-5 10, Williams 5-9 4-5 17, Walker 3-11 1-1 8, Ke. Boone 0-1 0-0 0, Ka. Boone 1-3 0-0 2, Kouma 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 16-20 75.

Half — Oklahoma State 46-35. 3-point goals — Kansas 5-21 (Agbaji 4-9, Braun 1-4, Thompson 0-1, Garrett 0-3, Wilson 0-4), Oklahoma State 9-21 (Cunningham 3-6, Williams 3-7, Likekele 1-1, Anderson 1-2, Walker 1-4, Ke. Boone 0-1). Rebounds — Kansas 35 (McCormack 12), Oklahoma State 29 (Walker 10). Assists — Kansas 9 (Garrett 3, Wilson 3), Oklahoma State 15 (Likekele 6). Turnovers — Kansas 15 (Garrett 3, Wilson 3), Oklahoma State 14 (Cunningham 4). Steals — Kansas 3 (Braun, Agbaji, Thompson), Oklahoma State 9 (Likekele 3, Williams 3). Blocks — Kansas 6 (McCormack 3), Oklahoma State 3 (Cunningham 2). Personal fouls — Kansas 16, Oklahoma State 14. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Officials — Maxwell, Roberts, Smith. Attendance — 3,350.