Bill Self has coached in big games before. He’s coached against rivals. He’s coached instant classics.
But Monday’s game – No. 1 Kansas beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 109-106, in triple overtime at Allen Fieldhouse – was just . . . different.
“It was respectful,” Self said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Both teams just competed so hard. It wasn’t like there was a hatred type feel to it. It was like patting the guy on the butt when he makes a play because you know you’re witnessing something great like Buddy (Hield) put on last night.”
Hield scored 46 points in 54 minutes for Oklahoma. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
“It was different,” Self said. “It was certainly as draining a game as I’ve ever been a part of. This one had a unique feel because it was kids competing so hard and making plays when you know that they’re totally exhausted. Guys playing 53, 54 minutes and still performing at that high level all the way through.”
Self picked up a technical foul late in the first half, this after Frank Mason was called for a foul on what appeared to be a clean block.
“Well, it was clean,” Self said, “but I deserved a technical. I was going to get one last night. I obviously didn’t like the way the game was going in that direction. It doesn’t mean it was bad, but I certainly didn’t like it. That was just the straw. It was not a good play. If a guy’s going to get a technical, he should get it during the teeth of the game, so that way you have a chance to fire up your team. There’s really no reason to fire up your team when there’s 2.9 seconds left in halftime. So that wasn’t smart.”
Four Jayhawks played 53+ minutes Monday, but highly touted freshmen forwards Carlton Bragg Jr. and Cheick Diallo played just three and five minutes, respectively. Some wonder if Self should have played Bragg and Diallo more to prepare for March, even if it meant a loss in January.
Is that criticism fair?
“I would not think so, but everybody’s got their opinion on different things,” Self said. “In that particular situation, we want to win the game. It’s bigger than just winning the game in January. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position to compete for league championships, and winning home games are pretty important to that. But those two are going to be terrific. I hope it’s this year, but they’ve still got some stuff they have to learn and they’re working hard at it. “But just because people come in with big names and that sort of stuff, that’s why you play a non-conference (schedule) to give these guys chances to be in there. I think you owe it to their teammates who have worked so hard to try to coach to win every game. I don’t think you sacrifice losses just to make sure you can say kids played 15 or 20 minutes in a game.”
Three Jayhawks – Perry Ellis (27), Devonte’ Graham (22) and Wayne Selden Jr. (21) – scored 20+ points last night, as Kansas shot 11-of-22 (50 percent) from three-point range.
It’s amazing Kansas could even concentrate given how loud the arena was.
“Certainly last night was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Self said. “It usually is that. I don’t think at our place it’s the big games that make our place special. I think it’s the games that aren’t considered big games that make our place special because you still have 16,300 people here and people are still going nuts all the time. But this night was different. This will rival as good an atmosphere as I’ve seen in the building.
“Both teams got better last night,” Self continued. “You don’t want to play 20 games like that during the course of a season, but you need to play a few. And certainly I think both teams got better.”