LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas fans waved in unison as Cameron McGriff trudged toward the bench.
Oklahoma State’s best player had fouled out, and the Jayhawk fans who watched him torch their team for the second consecutive season were enthralled he couldn’t play anymore. The synchronized waving was an unwarming welcome to the bench, as McGriff was forced to watch the final 4:02 without being able to affect the outcome on the game.
Kansas captured an 84-72 victory against the Oklahoma State basketball team on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse thanks to a patented second-half run. The Jayhawks went on a 23-6 run to escape from a halftime tie, with a 12-0 run being the difference in the game.
“We caved in a little bit, and they outhustled us,” guard Isaac Likekele said. “Credit them, they played hard. We’ve just got to play harder.”
Likekele said the Cowboys caved in mentally, mentioning there were never five players on the same page who were locked in. That showed during Kansas’ run.
McGriff led the Cowboys with 22 points. Likekele tallied 14, Lindy Waters added 13 and Thomas Dziagwa poured in 11. But for every shot in the second half the Cowboys managed to hit, Kansas had a bigger response.
McGriff nailed a 3-pointer with 14:06 left to tie the game at 49, but that’s as close as OSU (9-14 overall, 2-8 Big 12) would be to the lead. Two KU freshmen, Quentin Grimes and Ochai Agbaji, hit four 3s to spark the 12-0 run, the latter three of which came on consecutive possessions. OSU coach Mike Boynton called a timeout with the Cowboys trailing 65-51, but KU’s damage had been done.
“We just didn’t have enough to stave off that run that they made in the second half,” Boynton said. “It’s part of what makes this place a hard place to play because things can come pretty quickly.”
Star forward Dedric Lawson scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Jayhawks (18-6, 7-4), but backup center Mitch Lightfoot was a spark when he came in. In only 20 minutes, Lightfoot rallied the KU fans with his tenacious defense and thrilling hustle. He grabbed nine rebounds, five coming off the offensive glass, and he constantly won the scrappy battles in the paint, something Boynton praised him for following the contest.
After shooting 50 percent in the first half, OSU managed only a 37.9 percent clip in the second.
The Cowboys have dropped six conference games, their last win coming against another roster-ravaged West Virginia squad. Boynton said he isn’t feeling sorry for anybody.
“If their heads are down and they don’t feel like they can play, I would advise them not to show up to practice,” Boynton said. “In our program, when you show up, you’re going to do your job at a high level every single day. You’re going to compete to try to win because it’s not about you. It’s not about how you feel. It’s not about how I feel.
“We don’t represent just ourselves. We represent a lot of people out there who expect to see a certain level of effort, and eventually, they expect us to win some games too. But for right now, the effort must continue to be there.”