This post isn’t about analysis. This post is about enjoying a basketball game for being great. This will be long, so feel free to skip it if you don’t have that kind of time.
My perception of several guys was altered last night watching that game. Credit has to go to every single guy for playing their butts off last night, on both teams. The action wasn’t always perfect, but guys played extremely hard on both ends.
Both Kruger and Self squeezed every ounce of effort out of their guys. Both drew up some brilliant plays and made some questionable decisions, but they got everything out of their players.
Pack up the Big XII POY trophy and send it to Norman. Deliver it to a Mr. Hield. I went from thinking Hield was a fringe NBA prospect to being sold on him as a first rounder. Dropping 46 in AFH and playing 54 of 55 minutes, basically not letting your team die until exhaustion compromised his talents in the 54th minute of action (after playing all 40 in a wild game against ISU on Saturday). Hield was the best player on the floor. I wanted to shake his hand last night. As Vitale said last night, it wasn’t just that Hield made plays and dropped 46, it was that every single play he made was during a crucial moment. Every play was a must play. And he wasn’t just scoring. He had crucial assists, grabbed some big rebounds and played some tough D. Just incredible in every aspect.
Perry Ellis played his best game as a Jayhawk. Not best because he has never played better. He has. Best because that was the type of game that you need to play if you’re going to be a top player on a top team. He battled in a way that I had never seen him battle. He had his problems against Lattin (I will get to him in a second), but Perry just kept plugging away and made some HUGE plays down the stretch.
Isaiah Cousins has some stones. He was awful Saturday against Iowa State, until he wasn’t and keyed the win down the stretch. He struggled again last night, but then still hit a couple big buckets. He’s slumping right now, but once he gets going again, this OU team will be even more dangerous.
Frank Mason changed how I feel about him as a defensive player. I have no idea how many points he scored, or how many assists, or anything like that. I watched him get into Buddy Hield’s space last night and take on the challenge of defending a top notch player that was red hot (and stayed hot). But Frank stayed right in Hield’s space, and ended up making the two biggest plays of the night to seal the win. I said Frank was an average defender at the beginning of the season. I stand corrected. Frank is above average, maybe well above average. I can’t even describe how impressed I was with his performance on that end.
Kadeem Lattin was big time last night. He kept that game alive with his presence in the middle. He and Spangler are basically OU’s only useful bigs, and I think they both had double doubles last night. Spangler showed me more shooting than I knew he had. I was afraid he was going to be our undoing. The single biggest moment last night may have been when he left the game briefly due to injury. He wasn’t the same when he came back in. Those two are irreplaceable for the Sooners.
Devonte Graham has some Mario Chalmers in him. He wants to be the guy that has to make plays. I hadn’t really gotten to see that attitude until last night, but he wants to be in the BIG moments. It’s clear that Self realized that before I did and that Graham will be on the floor at the end of every close game from now until he graduates. He was relentless last night.
I didn’t even really think Jordan Woodard was that good until last night. He was, to me, the third of the three guards. I was so completely wrong. Woodard was in on everything. He handled the ball. He hit six threes, and I think four of them were on enormous, game altering possessions. Like Hield, he made several must plays. So very impressed.
And finally, Wayne Selden, who has morphed from a running disappointment into a legitimate NBA level performer. Wayne Selden is different. Last year, in the type of game he was having, Selden would have finished with five points on 2-6 shooting with 3 fouls in 26 minutes of a KU loss. The foul trouble would have robbed him of his aggressiveness and he would have just disappeared. Last night, Selden saw Hield going absolutely bonkers and rose to that level. No, he didn’t drop 46, too, but there were moments where Selden saw Hield making plays and went and made a play, too. That’s what the greats do. Hield and Selden raised each other’s level of play last night, and it was a joy to watch.
That was some great basketball. We will do this again in Norman in a little over 5 weeks.