If Kansas hadn't lost three straight games, I could have described this as a game neither team deserved to lose and really meant it. I can say without qualification that this was the best college basketball game I've seen so far this year. The Kansas-Texas Tech game would have rivaled it had the quality of the officiating matched the quality of play (not a complaint about the traveling call, the officiating was poor and wildly inconsistent throughout the game). The quality of the officiating might be a bigger surprise than the quality of the offensive play. The former, sadly, is rare in Big 12 play. The latter, in a meeting between the fifth (Kansas) and ninth (Oklahoma State) best defenses in the country wherein they allow 67 eFG% (Kansas) and 70 eFG% (Oklahoma State) is a testament to the players and coaches for both teams. Nobody had a bad game, not even defensively.
Player comments and ratings (1-low, 5-average, 10-high):
Joey Graham, 7.5: There's no player in the country I enjoy watching on the offensive end of the court than Joey Graham. He's never off balance and his ability to score inside, outside, and in the mid-range puts defenders at his mercy. Christian Moody had no chance of guarding Graham successfully. Graham could have been more aggressive going to the basket (he didn't attempt a free throw), perhaps putting Moody or Simien in the minor foul trouble that forced Graham to the bench briefly in the second half.
Ivan McFarlin, 5: McFarlin has been a solid, useful player for four years. Any team in the country would be better for having him on the court. But he's simply not as good as Wayne Simien and it showed on Sunday. McFarlin did good things (6-6 from the free throw line, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks) but couldn't keep Simien off the boards or away from the free throw line.
John Lucas, 9.5: He made his first nine shots and played every second of the game. Unfortunately, the two shots he missed in the last ninety seconds will diminish the perception of his performance overall. His attempted game-winner typified the game. Oklahoma State ran a good play, Kansas defended it well, Lucas still got himself open enough to take a difficult, makeable shot.
Daniel Bobik, 4: Bobik and Giddens were near-equal non-factors in the game. Neither contributed much to their teams but they didn't hurt them either. Both shooters were well-guarded and neutralized. It took the more diversified offensive skills of Joey Graham, Lucas, Curry, Miles, Simien, and Langford to break down the defenses.
JamesOn Curry, 7: Curry is a really good offensive player. Like most good freshman, his defensive effort appears to be a little ahead of defensive skills at this point. If he stays at Oklahoma State long enough for his skills to meet his effort, he'll be the best player in the league. Curry will likely be the key to Oklahoma State's tournament chances. No team can successfully guard three players as good as Joey Graham, Lucas, and Curry (when he's good). Curry hasn't really put together back-to-back good games yet this season. Few freshman do.
Stephen Graham, 6: I think that had Stephen Graham attended a school with slightly less talent he could put up about 90% of his brother's numbers. He's having an excellent year.
Terrence Crawford, 4: Basically the same player as Christian Moody, Oklahoma State's superior frontline talent allows Crawford to play a more limited role. Unqualified to guard Wayne Simien successfully, Crawford still managed to be Oklahoma State's most active rebounder during his time on the court.
Wayne Simien, 10: Simien's performance has forced me to re-think my first-team All-American choices. He may sneak past Ike Diogu yet. Simien combined a vintage Raef LaFrentz (college edition) offensive performance with a relentless Nick Collison impression on the glass. Simien grabbed 29% of the potential rebounds in only 34 minutes. He only had one assist, but continued to show his improved passing skills, finding Moody near the basket when double-teamed.
Christian Moody, 6: Moody looked a little tight on a couple of second half possessions that ended with turnovers. Otherwise his performance was flawless. Neither Iowa State nor Oklahoma pretended to guard Kaun or Giles, surrendering the occasional layup in favor playing 5-on-4 every single possession. Moody, though his skills are limited, has more organized basketball experience than the three freshman big men combined and take better advantage of being unguarded. The one downside of this game for Kansas is that, having shredded Eddie Sutton coached man-to-man defense, they won't see anything but zone the rest of the year from scrupulous, well-coached teams. Missouri will probably just try to re-infect Moody's knee.
Keith Langford, 7: Langford looked much healthier shooting the ball, he defended reasonably well, and handled the ball well. His two awfully memorable turnovers occurred in succession but were more than made for by his five assists.
Aaron Miles, 8.5: Kansas lost three straight games they could have won with a couple more made jump shots by Giddens, made free throws by Langford, touches for Simien, or, shockingly, fewer Aaron Miles turnovers. Miles was credited with a single turnover Sunday, and that occurred on a good pass that Moody failed to meet. Furthermore, Miles nearly matched Lucas shot-for-shot. Miles had to, as he (too frequently for my taste) left Lucas open to help defend dribble-penetration.
JR Giddens, 3: Giddens has been raked over the coals for his performance the last two weeks. I think this is unfair. He hasn't shot the ball well and that's what he does best. However, he's taken only a few bad shots during that time and he's worked to improve his defense, rebounding, and ball-handling. He's still not great in any of those areas, but I don't understand the severity of the criticism. A cold streak is not a character flaw.
Michael Lee, 6.5: Michael Lee has been Kansas's worst player this season. He had an excellent game Sunday. He even played solid defense. Yes, Curry beat him on a couple of cross-overs, but he's a lot better than Lee, that's going to happen. Lee's inspired performance reminded of the March 5, 1995 Oklahoma State-Kansas game (ticket stub still in my wallet), a true conference championship decider. Remembered primarily for Randy Rutherford's amazing performance and Ostertag holding Bryant Reeves scoreless, Greg Gurley's final home game was unexpectedly terrific. Gurley, limited by injury throughout his career, came off the bench and made five three-pointers. This was Lee's next-to-last home game and the team has to take care of business twice more to win the league, but with his time in the Fieldhouse growing short, Lee acquitted himself honorably.
Jeff Hawkins, 4.5: Hawkins is playing some decent defense off the bench and provides good spacing and competent ball-handling offensively.
Darnell Jackson, 4: Jackson plays with the same sort of abandon that made Jarod Haase so annoying. Jackson's youth makes it endearing provided he figures out what he's supposed to be doing as he matures. Haase didn't until his senior year. Jackson will have opportunity to do so next season.
Sasha Kaun, 2: It says in the box score that Kaun played five minutes. It didn't seem like he was out there that long. His play lacked impact for either team.