Jan. 7, 2012
After opening conference play with his first double-double in college, Releford scored 28 points to set a career best for the second straight game and Kansas (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) used a big surge just after halftime to beat Oklahoma 72-61 Saturday.
Releford had career-highs with 16 points and 11 rebounds in his previous game against Kansas State and continued his strong start to Big 12 play.
"I'd like to say it's coaching but I can't say that," coach Bill Self said. "He was terrific against K-State and then today, the light came on. ... Certainly he's in a comfort zone right now."
Releford had 16 points by halftime and kept going in the second half, when the Jayhawks broke it open with a 29-6 surge just after halftime.
"I come into the games just trying to stop the opponent's offensive scorer, their best player on the team," Releford said. "I don't really look to score but coach Self lately has just been telling me to continue to stay aggressive and take what the defense gives me."
The Jayhawks (12-3, 2-0 Big 12) scored the first seven points of the second half to take the lead, then never gave it back. Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson all had two-handed slams during the decisive run that turned a one-point deficit into a commanding lead for Kansas.
Tyshawn Taylor drove the left baseline for a three-point play and Johnson drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to finish it off and make it 62-40 with 8:37 remaining.
The Sooners missed eight of their first 10 shots and committed five turnovers in the first 8 minutes of the second half to allow Kansas to get out and run.
"We're pretty good when we get out in transition and we did actually an above-average job of that, and they missed some shots," Self said. "But that's the best stretch we've played (all season)."
Thomas Robinson added 18 points and nine rebounds for Kansas, which made half of its 58 shots.
Steven Pledger scored 14 points and Andrew Fitzgerald had 11 for the Sooners (10-4, 0-2) but the team's two leading scorers went a combined 9-for-28 from the field.
Oklahoma shot 30 percent in the second half while Kansas got easy buckets to convert at a 60 percent clip.
"I thought the first half we battled them pretty good. The second half, we opened up pretty careless with the ball right there, which gave them a little margin," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
"Not only did we turn it over but we turned it over with them shooting layups, which is the worst of both worlds."
It was the second straight game that the Sooners gave up a huge run to open the second half. Missouri outscored Oklahoma 37-13 right after halftime Tuesday night to salt away an 87-49 victory that was already a blowout.
This time, neither team led by more than five points in a first half that featured eight lead changes.
Releford matched his previous career-high for a game with 16 points before halftime, but Oklahoma took a 34-33 lead at the break after Romero Osby hit a right-handed hook shot to answer Robinson's reverse layup. It was the last time Oklahoma would be ahead.
"(Releford) just kept us in the game," Self said. "I thought a couple of guys were still in Lawrence, the way that our heads weren't into it. The second half, for whatever reason, the light came on and guys really seemed focused and intense and did a much better job."
Osby practically handed the ball to Robinson on Oklahoma's first possession after the break, and Robinson raced to the opposite end for a layup.
The Jayhawks got eight of their first 11 second-half points on the fast break, and then took turns setting each other up for dunks. Releford fed Withey for his dunk, Taylor lobbed to Johnson for a throwdown and then Johnson tossed an alley-oop for Robinson.
Kansas won its eighth straight in the series and started conference play with two wins in a row for the sixth straight year and the 16th time in 17 seasons.
"A win like this adds up to winning a conference championship," Robinson said. "Coach told us that we have to go undefeated at home and be able to scrape up some wins on the road."