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No. 2 Kansas outlasts Oklahoma State as Frank Mason scores 22

By Kevin Haskin, The Sports Xchange

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- In all likelihood, Kansas will be the top-rated team in the country when the next set of rankings are released.

Yet Bill Self is more elated over another top position, first place in the Big 12, after the No. 2 Jayhawks climbed to 16-1 overall and 5-0 in the conference by downing Oklahoma State 87-80 Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.

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"It's really not a big deal," the Kansas coach said after his team won its 16th straight. "I'd much rather be 5-0 in league than No. 1, and we got that."

Not with ease, however.

Although Oklahoma State (10-7) remained in the Big 12 cellar by dropping to 0-5, the Cowboys led 40-36 at halftime and traded three leads with Kansas.

Backup forward Mitchell Solomon, who came in averaging 4.2 points, erupted for 16, all in the second half, including 10 straight to keep Oklahoma State close.

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The Jayhawks continually relied on their backcourt to withstand the Cowboys' charge. Senior guard Frank Mason III led Kansas in scoring for the 14th time, netting 22 points. Junior Devonte' Graham added 21 and freshman Josh Jackson had 20 as the Jayhawks won their 52nd home game in a row, the nation's longest streak.

"It was a tough game," Jackson said. "They played us a little tougher than we normally get played and that brought our level of play up."

Kansas capitalized on a 45-36 advantage on the glass and outscored Oklahoma State 30-11 from the foul line. The Jayhawks made 30 of 45 free throws, while the Cowboys went 11 of 14, which offset their advantage in field goals.

With a 45.6 percentage, Oklahoma State became just the second team this season to out-shoot Kansas from the field.

"Free throws and rebounds, it's one of my biggest pet peeves in basketball," Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said of the differentials in those two categories. "When you're playing the now-No. 1 team in the country in their building, you can't do that. In essence I felt pretty good about what we did offensively."

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The Cowboys tried to milk clock with a slower offensive pace and in turn also slow the Jayhawks.

The strategy worked in the first half, but Kansas used more run-outs in the second half and also limited Oklahoma State junior guard Jawun Evans to one field goal as he finished 6 of 22 with 15 points. Evans did distribute a game-high six assists.

"If Jawun is aggressive there's not really anyone that I believe can stop him," Solomon said. "If he's going downhill, he's going to attract attention, so that leaves room for offensive rebounds if he doesn't finish."

Junior guard Jeffrey Carroll led the Cowboys with a game-high 23 points.

Graham, in particular, heated up for Kansas in the second half when he netted 17 points.

"Some (3-pointers) we took weren't so good, and coach told us at halftime we needed to watch our shot selection," Graham said of the Jayhawks' 5-for-20 shooting on 3s. "For the most part, though, we're an aggressive team, we like to run and a lot of the shots we were taking I liked."

Particularly in the second half when Kansas was more intent on driving to the hole.

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"We drove it downhill a lot more and got to the free-throw line. That was our best offense," Self said.

On Monday, Kansas will learn whether it slides into the No. 1 spot in the polls following a loss by Big 12 rival Baylor earlier in the week at West Virginia after the Bears climbed to No. 1 for the first time in their history. That same night, the Jayhawks will play at Iowa State.

Oklahoma State led for 18-plus minutes in the first half, using 14 points from Carroll and 11 from Evans to grab a 40-36 halftime lead.

The Cowboys led by as many as 11 at 21-10 after Evans connected with 12:06 left in the first half.

The Jayhawks rallied to tie the game at 30-30 but could not regain the lead while making just 2 of 11 shots from 3-point range. Mason was the only Kansas player to crack double figures in the first half, scoring 11 on 6-of-6 free-throw shooting. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk added nine points and finished with 14.

The halftime deficit was just the fourth for Kansas on the season.

Oklahoma State entered with the worst defensive field goal percentage in the Big 12 (.468), but held Kansas to 40.7 percent shooting in the first half.

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NOTES:

-- The transfer of G Sam Cunliffe into the Kansas program became official Friday. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard begins practicing immediately and will be eligible for the complete 2017-18 season after transferring from Arizona State. "A lot of people view the year sitting out as a negative," said Kansas coach Bill Self, "but I think Sam is looking at it as a positive, to come in here, get acclimated and practice against some really good players."

-- Trae Young, a point guard who plays for Norman (Okla.) North High School and lists Kansas among his finalists in recruiting, canceled a visit to Saturday's game because of the threat of ice storms that gripped the area. Young averages 30-plus points and is also considering Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kentucky and Washington.

-- Oklahoma State was the last Big 12 rival to beat Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. That was in 2013. With Saturday's result, the Jayhawks' homecourt win streak in conference play grew to 35 games.

-- Brad Underwood, in his first season as Oklahoma State's head coach, remains one win shy of the 100-mark for his career. Underwood coached the previous three seasons at Stephen F. Austin. His career mark is 99-21.

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