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Sooners Fall by Two to No. 3 Kansas
February 26, 2007

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- In coach Bill Self's eyes, Kansas got just the kind of scare that could prove useful when the NCAA tournament rolls around.

After a string of blowouts, the No. 3 Jayhawks needed 18 points apiece from Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers to bounce back after blowing a 17-point lead and beat Oklahoma 67-65 Monday night.

"It's the best scenario. I just wish that we had played better," Self said. "But it's the best scenario when you have to win when your team really doesn't play well and you have guys grind it out."

The Jayhawks (26-4, 13-2 Big 12) committed 12 second-half turnovers against Oklahoma's pressing defense, but rebounded with a late 11-4 run to win their seventh straight game.

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Kansas had won its last six games by an average margin of 28.8 points and appeared headed for another easy victory before the Sooners (15-13, 6-9) used a trapping pressure in the second half to close the gap.

"I think it does help," Self said. "We've played really well. We've been on kind of a roll. This will kind of ground us a little bit and get us focused."

Chalmers had 14 of his 18 points in the second half and was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final 5 minutes. After Michael Neal's 3-pointer tied it for Oklahoma, the Jayhawks committed only two turnovers the rest of the way.

"They about got us tonight, but we made the key plays at the end to pull out the victory," Chalmers said.

Some questioning from coach Jeff Capel got the Sooners energized at halftime.

"We talked about believing. In the first half, I didn't sense that our guys really believed that we could win," Capel said.

The crowd, decked out in giveaway white T-shirts, got back into the game after a pair of quick baskets by Oklahoma to start the second half. Nate Carter got it started by putting back Bobby Maze's blocked layup, and Neal stole the ensuing inbounds pass to set up a 3-pointer by David Godbold that cut the lead to 33-24.

The Sooners continued to press the Jayhawks into turnovers, and they eventually tied the game at 51 when Neal drilled a 3-pointer from the left side to finish a 12-3 run.

But Oklahoma couldn't grab the lead.

Kansas got its next five points at the foul line, and Wright bumped the lead to 58-53 when he spun into the lane and banked in a layup with his right hand. Sasha Kaun added a layup after Brandon Rush lost the ball on the way to the basket, and Rush made two free throws to extend the lead to 62-55.

Oklahoma got to 63-60 on Longar Longar's layup in the final minute, but Chalmers and Russell Robinson were 4-for-4 from the free throw line to keep Kansas in control.

Tony Crocker's 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left provided the final margin in the Sooners' fifth straight loss. It's Oklahoma's longest losing streak since a run of six straight losses in February 1991.

"You're supposed to play hard all the time," Neal said. "When you don't get that W, to tell you the truth, it really doesn't mean anything."

Kaun added 11 points and nine rebounds for Kansas, which has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament the past two years.

Wright said this game provides a valuable lesson for the postseason: "When you have a team down, you have to make some plays."

Carter scored 20 points to lead Oklahoma, and Taylor Griffin added 12 points - is highest output in six weeks - before fouling out.

After Griffin opened the game with a two-handed jam for Oklahoma, Wright scored the next six points to lead a 13-2 run that gave the Jayhawks a nine-point edge.

Wright also had the first four points in a 10-2 spurt that was highlighted by back-to-back dunks by Rush and Kaun as Kansas extended its lead to 33-16.

Crocker hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to close the gap to 33-19 at halftime and end Oklahoma's 0-for-10 start from 3-point range. It was the start of a comeback that came up just short.

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