KANSAS CITY, Mo. Ochai Agbaji scored a career-high 26 points, Marcus Garrett added 17 and No. 11 Kansas held on after blowing most of a 20-point halftime lead to beat No. 25 Oklahoma 69-62 on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
Mitch Lightfoot added 11 points for the No. 2 seed Jayhawks (20-8), who played without big man David McCormack and backup forward Tristan Enaruna, both of whom were caught up in COVID-19 protocols leading up to the tournament.
The seventh-seeded Sooners (15-10) trailed 35-15 at halftime, but they managed to close within 62-59 with 3 1/2 minutes to go when Elijah Harkless followed a miss by Austin Reaves with a bucket of his own. But the Sooners didn’t get another field goal to go until the final minute, by which point the Jayhawks had put the game away.
Kansas will play No. 13 Texas or No. 20 Texas Tech in the semifinals Friday night.
Reaves and Brady Manek scored 19 points apiece to lead Oklahoma, which ended a four-game skid with its first-round win over Iowa State but couldn’t capitalize on the momentum. Harkless added 15 points before fouling out.
Without McCormack at his disposal, coach Bill Self opted for a four-guard starting lineup with nobody taller than 6-foot-8 forward Jalen Wilson, and the smaller Jayhawks spent the first half buzzing around Oklahoma’s backcourt like a bunch of gnats.
After Manek gave the Sooners a 6-4 lead in the opening minutes, they managed only one more field goal a 3 from Manek over the next 10 minutes. And after Reaves curled in another 3-pointer to get them within 18-12, the Sooners went six more minutes without another field goal.
Oklahoma was 6 of 20 from the field with 13 turnovers, and its 15 points set a season low for scoring in a half.
It may have taken the Sooners 20 minutes to dig a 20-point deficit, but they needed just 10 to erase most of it.
The Jayhawks grew stagnant on offense with Agbaji and Garrett the only ones able to get anything to go, and their once-stingy defense became downright generous. Manek and Reaves took advantage of the newfound open looks with a barrage of 3-pointers, which opened up the lane for Harkless and De’Vion Harmon to slice to the basket.
By the time Reaves drilled a 3-pointer with 5 minutes to go, and Harkless followed Reaves’ miss with a layup a few minutes later, the Sooners were within 62-57 and had the roughly 3,000 fans in T-Mobile Center on edge.
Mitch Lightfoot’s basket with 2:22 left was the first in the second half by anybody but Agbaji and Garrett for Kansas, and Garrett answered Reaves’ free throw moments later with one of his own to make it 65-60 with 1:36 to go.
Reaves misfired from the top of the arc on the Sooners’ next possession, allowing Kansas to hang on the final minute.
Oklahoma finished with a season-high 18 turnovers. The Sooners also got just four points off the bench, and their inability to take advantage of McCormack’s absence in the paint was noticeable all game.
Kansas has struggled at the foul line much of the season, but Self’s team was 9 of 11 from the stripe Thursday night. Wilson made a couple free throws in the final seconds that ultimately sealed the victory.
The Jayhawks will face the Texas Tech-Texas winner for a spot in the championship game.