It’s difficult, by definition, for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown to exceed expecations.
But Oklahoma-Kansas somehow did it Monday night.
I mean it really, really did it.
Final: No. 1 Kansas 109, No. 2 Oklahoma 106.
And it took three — three! — overtimes to settle things.
“Toughest game I’ve ever played in,” said Kansas senior Perry Ellis, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds and still wasn’t even close to the star of the game.
That’s because Buddy Hield was the star of the game.
The Oklahoma senior took 23 shots, made 13 and finished with a career-high 46 points while making a strong case that he should be the leading candidate for National Player of the Year. This was Hield’s fifth 30-point game this season, and his fourth in OU’s past seven contests. And yet it might forever be bitter-sweet in his mind, and for three reasons.
- Hield turned the ball over with 8.6 seconds left in the third OT.
- Hield missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that, if good, would’ve forced a fourth OT.
- And, of course, Oklahoma lost.
Still, what a game — for Hield, for Ellis and for college basketball in general, and the timing could not have been better considering it was only the fifth No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown ever in January, and it was in prime time on the Monday following the final weekend of the NFL’s regular season. In other words, this game was the center of the sports world.
And, again, it did not disappoint.
You like comebacks?
There were plenty. And what’ll be forgotten by most, because of the three overtime periods, is that both teams actually held double-digit leads in regulation. Kansas led 32-21 in the first half. Then Oklahoma led 54-44 in the second half.
Still, the game was somehow tied at the end of regulation. And tied at the end of one overtime. And tied again at the end of a second overtime, at which point it became only the second No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in college basketball history to ever reach three OTs.
“That’s as good of a regular-season game as I’ve been a part of,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in the locker room. Then he smiled and told his players to go enjoy the rest of night — this historic night of college basketball that’ll be remembered for a long, long time.