LAWRENCE, Kan. – On Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas and Oklahoma played the 40th college basketball game ever between the top two ranked teams in the country. This alone would have made for quite a night.
This was a classic, an exercise in survival, the sort of game that hangs in that undefined layer of instant history. This was Kansas guard Frank Mason, swiping an inbounds pass from the paws of Oklahoma star Buddy Hield with 12 seconds left in the third overtime, cementing the No. 1 Jayhawks' 109-106 victory.
Hield finished with 46 points for No. 2 Oklahoma on 13-of-23 shooting, burnishing his credentials as a National Player of the Year candidate. The senior guard's eighth three-pointer of the night came on a guarded fadeaway, a shot that rolled around the rim for a nearly a full second before dropping home. But it was Mason who took the ball from him in the final moments, hitting two free throws as Kansas escaped Hield's desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Kansas' reign atop college basketball will last another week — at least. Just 10 hours or so after the Jayhawks ascended to the top of the polls for the first time since February 2011, they improved to 13-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12 Conference.
Kansas forward Perry Ellis put up 27 points and 13 rebounds, leading four Jayhawks in double figures.
As their legs grew tired, the Jayhawks' free-throw shooting began to fail them. Mason missed a free throw that would have tied the score at 106-106 with 36.9 seconds left. Oklahoma (12-1, 1-1 Big 12) took possession and came up empty on the other end, leading to a fast-break opportunity and a 107-106 lead after Kansas' Devonte' Graham converted two free throws.
That set up the final moments.
Kansas junior Wayne Selden had a clean look in the final seconds of overtime. With 2 seconds on the clock, Selden came around a screen on an in-bounds play and spotted up for three from the wing. The shot drew iron, and the game barreled on into the night.
Oklahoma had a golden opportunity to win in the final seconds of regulation, when Kansas big man Landen Lucas was whistled for an over-the-back call that led to a 1-and-1 on the other end with 2.1 seconds to play. But the Sooners' Khadeem Lattin missed the front end, and the Jayhawks survived into overtime.
Down double digits after halftime, the Jayhawks reclaimed the lead when Graham converted a three-point play in transition that put Kansas up 73-72. Oklahoma answered with a three-pointer with 1:35 left. On the sideline, Kansas coach Bill Self — who earlier was called for a technical foul — called a timeout, setting up the final stretch.
It was, in one sense, a game of runs. The Jayhawks led by 11 points in the first half before trailing by 10 in the second.