NORMAN, Okla. —For 30 minutes, Kansas and Oklahoma were about the same team, trading missed shots, turnovers, fouls.
But the Jayhawks were so good for the first 10 minutes after halftime that they could afford the standoff.
No. 14 Kansas won 72-61, but a 29-6 run out of the locker room clearly defined the difference between the programs.
The Jayhawks (12-3, 2-0 Big 12) locked down on defense, forcing four Sooner turnovers in the first four minutes. They ran Oklahoma dizzy on the offensive end, scoring in droves in transition and half-court sets.
A steal and court-length drive, compete with spin move by Thomas Robinson, and a touchdown pass by Robinson to Elijah Johnson on a fly pattern highlighted the early onslaught.
Coach Bill Self called it the best Kansas run of the year, and who's to argue?
Through it all, Travis Releford has excelled.
Conference play has changed Releford, a 6-foot-5 junior wing. In Wednesday's victory over Kansas State, he scored a career-best 16 points. Saturday, Releford had that at halftime on his way to 28 points.
"He's been our best player in conference play," Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor said.
Releford did his usual damage at the basket, getting stickbacks and finishing drives. He added three three-pointers, and made seven of eight free throws.
The game has opened up, Releford said. When the ball goes in the post to Robinson, who went for 18 points and nine rebounds, defenses collapse, and Robinson has become adept at finding open teammates.
"I don't think much has changed," Releford said.
But it has. Releford has been seen as the Jayhawks' top perimeter defender and his scoring, an 8.8 average entering Saturday, was almost seen as a bonus. Robinson, Taylor and Elijah Johnson are the top point producers. Conner Teahan, although he struggled Saturday, is a shooting specialist.
But Releford as a scoring threat could be a huge boost for the Jayhawks. And he even brought the ball up the floor a couple of times Saturday when Oklahoma's pressure blanketed Taylor and Johnson.
"I don't really look to score," Releford said. "Coach Self lately has been telling me to continue to stay aggressive and take what the defense gives me."
Releford was the best player the Jayhawks threw at the Sooners early. Focus figured to be sharper for Oklahoma, coming off a 38-point shellacking by Missouri earlier in the week. And it was, for a half.
The Sooners got what they wanted early. Guard Steven Pledger worked his way for 12 points, and big men Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald combined for 16. Oklahoma was outworking Kansas on the boards, leading 20-15 in that department. Remember, the Jayhawks had won that battle with K-State 50-26.
The Sooners played zone defense over the final seven minutes and the Jayhawks didn't respond well.
"I thought a couple of guys were still in Lawrence, our heads weren't into it," Self said.
Kansas trailed 34-33 and the halftime locker room scene wasn't tense, according to the players.
"Second half, we just turned it up, got fast breaks, got our hands on some balls, and that opened it us for us," Taylor said.
The defense made 14 steals, the most in a game since the opener.
"We put pressure on the guards, and it created some havoc," Taylor said.
The result was a road victory that can be difficult to achieve. Oklahoma (10-4, 0-2) may finish in the bottom division. But Self was genuinely concerned about the game.
"Locker rooms on the road feel better than home wins do," Self said. "We have 16 games left but we're off to a pretty good start."