During Kansas' shootaround on Wednesday before the Jayhawks faced Oklahoma, coach Bill Self told Wayne Selden Jr. that the freshman needed to be more aggressive on offence.
Selden Jr. did what Self told him, scoring a career-high 24 points and going 5 of 10 from 3-point range, and No. 18 Kansas started Big 12 Conference play with a 90-83 win over Oklahoma.
Kansas (10-4, 1-0) won its conference opener for the 23rd straight year, a streak that began with the 1991-92 season. Oklahoma, in January 1991, was the last team to beat the Jayhawks in a conference opener.
"It was the confidence my teammates and coaches have in me," Selden Jr. said of his successful game. "I was out there just playing and not thinking.
"That's just Kansas basketball. We're trying to start off Big 12 play on the right foot, so we feel like we've got to go after all loose balls and we've got to pick up our defensive intensity. ... I know it's tradition-rich and I just want to put forth my best effort and the team wants to put forth its best effort to keep it going."
Perry Ellis had 22 points on 6-for-8 shooting and 11 rebounds, helping Kansas shoot 54.7 per cent from the field.
After a 5-0 start, the Jayhawks lost four of its next eight and were coming off a 61-57 loss to San Diego State on Sunday that ended their' 68-game home winning streak against nonconference foes.
Kansas has won 11 of the last 12 matchups with Oklahoma. The Jayhawks' latest win in the series could be especially important, considering the difficult stretch they face to start the Big 12 campaign. After Oklahoma, Kansas will host No. 25 Kansas State, visit No. 9 Iowa State, then host No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 7 Baylor, all in succession.
"It's going to be a monster," Self said. "Our league is great. When you think about OU and they go down and they win at Texas, and Texas wins at North Carolina. K-State is playing as well as anybody right now. Iowa State is obviously terrific, and Baylor. We've probably been, nonconference-wise, one of the bigger disappointments in the league, based on our preseason expectations. I think it's going to be a fabulous league."
Cameron Clark had a career high-tying 32 points for Oklahoma (12-3, 1-1), which lost for the second time in three games. In losses to Louisiana Tech and Kansas, the Sooners gave up 102 and 90 points, respectively.
"It is very frustrating," Clark said. "We just have to go back to the drawing board. It all starts on defence. We just have to come together as a group and figured out what it is we are not doing and get better at it."
The annual visit to Lloyd Noble Center by the Jayhawks — who have won or shared nine straight Big 12 titles — drew fans including country music star Toby Keith, Oklahoma City Thunder chairman Clay Bennett, and Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
Wiggins has subpar game
Before the game, Oklahoma football player Sterling Shepard — who scored two touchdowns in the Sooners' win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl — appeared in a video in which he said, "OK, basketball, we got our big win. Now it's time to get yours."
But the Sooners never really slowed Kansas and struggled to deal with the Jayhawks' size advantage inside. Kansas had a 36-22 edge in rebounding and didn't seem bothered by a subpar game by Andrew Wiggins. The star freshman went 2 of 9 from the field and scored only nine points, only the second time this season he failed to reach double digits.
"Kansas is awfully good and did a good job dictating a lot of it, for a majority of the minutes," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "I thought our guys battled hard. There were maybe a couple of stretches in there when we didn't quite compete like we have to against a club like that to have a chance that we'd like to have."
Kansas led 50-44 at halftime and two free throws by Joel Embild made it 74-62 with 10:39 left.
Oklahoma stayed within striking distance and pulled within four points four times, the last time at 87-83 after a turnover by Wiggins and steal by Ryan Spangler led to a dunk by Buddy Hield with 39.9 seconds left.
Naadir Tharpe made two free throws moments later to push Kansas' lead to six points and, after Clark missed a 3 at the other end, Ellis made the back end of a two-shot free-throw opportunity to make it 90-83 with 29.2 seconds left. Wiggins blocked another 3-point attempt, by Frank Booker, and the Jayhawks eventually were able to run out the clock.
Tharpe scored 17 points for Kansas on 5-for-7 shooting. Hield had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Sooners, while Tyler Neal and Jordan Woodard had 10 points each. Woodard got all his scoring at the free-throw line, going 10 for 10 as Oklahoma made 29 of 36. Kansas went 24 for 30 from the line.
Kansas shot 64.3 per cent from the field in the first half, led by Selden Jr., who matched his previous career scoring high of 15 a little more than 8 minutes into the game.
"We were a team that lacked confidence coming in, so it was nice to see a freshman step up and basically give us confidence early on, because that's about as well as we've executed half-court offence, probably, all year, in the first half," Self said.
Kansas jumped to a 20-11 lead, but Oklahoma hung close thanks to 19-of-22 on free throws. With the score tied at 39 with 3:04 left before halftime, Wiggins was called for his second foul and Self protested, earning himself a technical foul. Oklahoma made all four subsequent free throws to go ahead.
Foul trouble forced Self to dig deep into his bench and freshman Conner Frankamp hit a 3-pointer and a 2 in the final 1:13 to give Kansas the six-point halftime lead.