The Big 12 has the second best nonconference record of all conferences this season – but the fewest losses – and the league added to that total with a clean sweep of five more wins on Saturday.
Kansas, ranked 13th in the current USA Today coaches’ Poll but sixth in the Big 12 standings, avoided a three-game losing skid – something that has happened very seldom to a Bill-Self-coached Jayhawk team – by completely dominating the second half in rolling to an 80-63 win over New Mexico on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Sophomore Perry Ellis and freshman Joel Embiid combined for 29 of Kansas’ 41 second-half points.
“He has great moves,” Ellis said about his teammate Embiid after the game. “The key was to get the ball to him because it opens everything up. He did a great job down there (in the paint), and we have to jeep continuing to get him the ball.”
The Sprint Center is the closest to home the Jayhawks, now 7-3 for the season, have played in a month. They are 4-3 this season away from Allen Fieldhouse. The Sprint Center has been like a second home to Kansas, though, in the eight years since it opened. They have a 23-4 record all-time playing there, just a 35-mile drive from Lawrence. Kansas is looking forward to returning to Allen Fieldhouse next week to host Georgetown.
Ellis finished with 21 points on the night and Embiid contributed a career-best 18 points.
Oklahoma had the closest game of of the three, and also the one with the best story line. The Sooners’ broke the 100-point barrier for the second time this season in defeating in-state rival Tulsa 101-91. Freshman Jordan Woodard had a career-high 24 points for OU, but only three of the points were on field goals. Woodard made 17 of 22 free thows, tying the most free-throw attempts by a Sooner in a single game. The previous mark was also set against Tulsa, but 17 years ago by Corey Brewer.
The high-scorer for Tulsa also was a Woodard, Jordan’s brother James, who tallied 19 points for the Golden Hurricane.
Oklahoma had five players score in double figures for the fifth time this season. Sophomore guard Buddy Hield had 23 points, tying his previous best offensive performance.
Unlike the Sooners, Texas received little challenge from Texas State, pounding the Bobcats by 32 points and an 85-53 victory. The Longhorns received a career-best 22-point, 10-rebound performance from Cameron Ridley in recording their ninth win of the season against one loss. It was Texas’ fifth straight victory, their longest win streak in almost two years.
Oklahoma State notched its ninth win this season with a 70-55 victory over Louisiana Tech in the All-College Classic at Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA Thunder, in Oklahoma City. The Cowboys started slow but finished strong in their first game in more than a week. Junior LeBryan Nash was the high scorer for the seventh-ranked Cowboys with 22 points.
“I wish I could have finished more shots,” Nash said in postgame comments. “I probably would have had a career high or something.”
“(We) didn’t get off to a good start,” said OSU head coach Travis Ford. “We can contribute it to taking eight days off, finals week, different things, but we just didn’t make good decisions offensively early in the game.”
West Virginia (7-4) also got a win on Saturday with a 74-64 triumph over Marshall.
The conference has three more games scheduled for Sunday: Central Arkansas is at Texas Tech, Texas-Pan American at TCU and Kansas State will play host to Troy.
The Big 12 composite record through games of Saturday is now 74-20, the second best in college basketball. Five Big 12 teams have at least eight wins and one or fewer losses, the best top-half record of any conference in America.