The Kansas Jayhawks rode a 54-34 second half onslaught to knock off the Oklahoma Sooners 81-70 on Tuesday night, a victory that marked the 400th in head coach Bill Self’s career at Kansas.
But the game was a bit more nerve-racking than the final score might indicate. After an early flurry put the Jayhawks up 21-12, the offense stagnated. With both Josh Jackson and Carlton Bragg on the bench with two fouls, Self was forced to bring the rarely-used Mitch Lightfoot and Dwight Coleby into the game. The Sooners closed the first half on a 24-6 run, heading to the break with a 36-27 lead.
Whatever Self told his team in the locker room couldn’t have worked any better.
The Jayhawks came out of the break on a 13-0 run, led by Frank Mason, who scored 19 points in the second half, and finished with 28 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.
After going up by as much as 15 in the second half, Kansas cruised to the 81-70 victory. Oklahoma was led by Kameron McGusty and Rashard Odomes, who scored 13 points a piece. Senior guard Jordan Woodard returned from a knee injury to score 7 points on 2-9 shooting off of the bench.
Mason was supported by Josh Jackson, who finished with 16 points, Devonte’ Graham, who had 13, and Landen Lucas, who continued his fantastic Big 12 play with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Is Frank Mason now the player of the year favorite?
It’s time for an anonymous player comparison:
Player A: 32.9 points per 100 possessions, 11.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 57 percent true shooting percentage (for reference, this is a measure of overall offensive efficiency), 123.4 offensive rating, 99.1 defensive rating
Player B is, of course, Frank Mason. Player A, though, is Trey Burke, the last point guard to win the Wooden Award.
Mason is basically right on par with what Burke was doing, or even a little bit better. On paper, Burke was a bit better of a passer, but he was also playing with four other guys that would end up in the NBA (Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Mitch McGary, and that doesn’t even include Caris Levert, who didn’t play much that season).
So, the precedent is there. He’s putting up better number than past winners. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how serious of a player of the year candidate Mason was coming into tonight’s game. Sure, he was putting up nice numbers, but were they sustainable?
Um, yes. Now, I’m almost completely sold on it. Mason put his team on his back when they needed it most, and frankly, the best offense tonight was just giving Mason the ball and getting out of his way.
Villanova’s Josh Hart is standing pretty squarely in Mason’s way, however.
He’s scoring at a better rate (35.7 points per 100 possessions), and doing it just as efficiently (66 percent true shooting percentage). His offensive rating (138.2) is better, and his defensive rating is just as good (96.2).
I don’t know who is going to win the award in a couple months. Whether or not it’s Mason, we need to strap in and enjoy the heck out of the season he’s having right now.