Kansas is beatable, even at home.
The Jayhawks seemed to be unstoppable playing some great basketball over much of the past three months since their last loss. They had risen to No. 1 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll this week. But every team that reaches No. 1 lately seems to lose shortly afterward and the Jayhawks fell victim to perhaps the most unlikely opponent on the conference schedule.
Oklahoma State hadn't won on the road in conference play in three years before tripping up Kansas 85-80. This was a Kansas team with a 33-game home-court winning streak and an 18-game winning streak this season. The outlook seemed grim for the Cowboys, in part, because OSU also hadn't won in Lawrence since 1989.
But it was Oklahoma State playing like the more aggressive, confident team in the first half, building a 14-point lead before eventually holding off the Jayhawks. Texas was the last opponent to beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 22, 2011
The victory is obviously a huge one for the Cowboys. They didn't necessarily need it in terms of their NCAA tournament resume. Four of their five losses have come against good teams, but beating Kansas on its home floor certainly will standout in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee in March, assuming the Cowboys don't earn an automatic bid or fall flat in the final six weeks.
Markell Brown was outstanding for the Cowboys, scoring 28 points 22 of which came in the second half, but guard Marcus Smart (who celebrates some of his successes with back flips on the court) made big plays down the stretch. He scored 25.
Kansas might actually benefit from a loss. It always seems to re-energize a Bill Self coached team and it's better for the Jayhawks that they learn this lesson now than in March when losing often ends the season. The Jayhawks are still in command of the Big 12 and nobody is going to predict any other team to win the Big 12 regular season or tournament titles based on one stumble.
The outcome does provide a glimmer of hope to some of the other contenders in the Big 12 and it makes watching the second half of conference play in that league at least a little more interesting.
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