It seemed like a foregone conclusion just 10 days ago that No. 5 Kansas would win its ninth consecutive Big 12 Conference regular season championship. Suddenly the league is completely up for grabs with half the league in position to possibly dethrone the Jayhawks.
Kansas lost its third consecutive game Saturday at Oklahoma 72-66 just three days after being called out by coach Bill Self for a poor performance – a 13-point first half -- in a loss Wednesday at TCU. It is the first three-game losing streak for the Jayhawks in eight years and knocked them out of first-place in the conference.
Oklahoma also provided the third loss the last time Kansas lost three in a row back in 2005.
Fingers will be pointed at point guard Elijah Johnson once again, but these losses have more causes than the struggles of just one player. That was evident when the team held a meeting after the TCU loss to discuss what led to the first two losses in the three-game skid. Obviously that discussion didn't fix things.
Johnson has been a focal point for criticism from Kansas fans of late and his performance against the Sooners won't help calm that storm. He scored eight points on 3-for-11 shooting and committed three turnovers. It is the seventh consecutive game he has failed to score in double figures.
In some of those outings, he has distributed the ball to teammates sufficiently. He finished with just one assist for the second straight game against the Sooners. Johnson is shooting just .253 in the past seven games.
Ben McLemore has made just one of the past 10 3-point shots he has taken and big man Jeff Withey isn't getting many opportunities to score. Self said he wasn't ready to panic after the loss to TCU. He still has plenty of reason to be confident despite losing a third consecutive game. This is still one of the best teams in the nation when its playing together on both ends of the floor. It would be a huge surprise if the Jayhawks don't find their way back to that eventually. There is just too much talent on the roster and Self is too good a coach not to find answers. But they have to come quickly if the Jayhawks want to keep their run of consecutive conference championships alive.
The loss sets up a huge game at the top of the Big 12 standings Monday when the Jayhawks host No. 13 Kansas State, which went into Saturday evening's game needing a win at Iowa State to take over first-place in the conference. (18-4, 7-2). Oklahoma State also has three losses in the conference but started Kansas' losing streak by beating the Jayhawks at home.
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