This was no masterpiece. It was paint by numbers without the numbers.
In a game that featured 49 fouls, 71 free throws, 28 turnovers, awful shooting, timeouts galore and had the rhythm of a sock hop, Kansas beat Oklahoma State 67-57 at Allen Fieldhouse.
The game finally ended after 2 1/2 hours, cutting deeply into ESPN2’s coverage of Duke-Miami and costing Mike Krzyzewski valuable air time.
OSU-Kansas was tedious from the start, beginning with four Perry Ellis turnovers in the game’s first four minutes – including three in three possessions.
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The Jayhawks kept threatening to pull away, but couldn’t make enough shots. Conversely, Oklahoma State kept threatening to get closer, but couldn’t make enough shots to do so.
The theme of the game was simple: Neither team could make enough shots to do much of anything. There were 32 made field goals, 16 by each team. But the Jayhawks and Cowboys combined to make 54 free throws. And not since James Naismith invented basketball has anyone been able to make shooting free throws exciting.
But that’s mostly what Tuesday night’s game was – a parade to the free-throw line. Only one player, OSU center Michael Cobbins, fouled out. Eight others, though, had at least three fouls.
Kansas won the free-throw contest, though not shooting them as well as OSU. The Jayhawks, though, went to the line 46 times, making 32, compared to 22 of 25 for Oklahoma State.
“The only thing that was good tonight was that we won,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose ninth-ranked Jayhawks improved to 14-2 and 3-0 in the Big 12. “It’s a good thing I didn’t drink a lot of water at halftime. I’d have been in trouble.”
Why is it that so often the worst games are the longest games? And at what point did the 16,300 inside Allen Fieldhouse start to feel as if they were being punished by having to watch?
“It was a crazy-called game,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “It was hard for either team to get a feel, hard to get into a flow. When you’re a defensive team and you go out and give your opponent 46 free throws, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
The game nearly reached a boiling point in the first half when there was a skirmish near the KU bench involving Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash and KU players Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander and Jamari Traylor. Some pushing and shoving resulted in technical fouls against Nash and Traylor.
Turns out, that short period of time was symbolic of the way the game went. Lots of contact, lots of whistles, not much grace.
Self was happy with KU’s defense, at least the part that limited Oklahoma State to 31.4-percent shooting and held standout guard Phil Forte to two points in the second half after Forte scored 16 in the first, nine of them at the free-throw line.
Forte didn’t shoot a free throw in the second half, however. He must have felt left out.
Two Jayhawks – Oubre and Frank Mason – combined to shoot 23 free throws. Freshman Devonte Graham shot eight despite playing only 21 minutes.
“I didn’t think there was any flow tonight,” Self said. “It was a hard game to play, a hard game to coach and probably a hard game to officiate. The reason why the game was so slow and fragmented was because both teams fouled. And I didn’t think either team adjusted very well to how the game was officiated.”
The KU players who best exemplified the game’s struggles were Ellis and sophomore Wayne Selden. Self would love to see them heat up and so would a bunch of KU fans.
Ellis made 1 of 8 shots against Oklahoma State while Selden was 2 of 7 and has failed to hit double figures in 7 of 9 games since scoring 21 points against Florida on Dec. 5.
Ellis, a 55-percent shooter last season, is down to 41.7 percent this season, including 37.9 percent in the past seven games. He did have eight rebounds, three steals and a couple of blocks Tuesday.
“We played through Perry quite a bit tonight and he wasn’t as aggressive,” Self said. “He made one great move in the first half, I think against (Michael) Cobbins where he was explosive and had power.
“It would be nice to get him and Wayne where they’re playing offensively like they’re capable of because that changes our team overnight. We’re just so much harder to guard. But Perry found some ways to help us even when it was obviously offensively that he was struggling.”
Everyone struggled through this game. It was never pretty.