LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Perry Ellis is a man of few words, and nobody would have blamed him if Monday night’s instant classic between top-ranked Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma had rendered the senior forward speechless.
Instead, Ellis perfectly described how the Jayhawks pulled it out: “Just heart.”
“All of us together,” Ellis said after his team’s 109-106, triple-overtime victory in a matchup of national title contenders. “There were so many plays going both ways. We just kept fighting.”
Ellis had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks (13-1, 2-0 Big 12), who had chances to win in regulation and the first two overtimes. Wayne Selden Jr. added 21 points and Devonte Graham had 20, including the go-ahead free throw in the final extra session.
Buddy Hield had a career-high 46 points for Oklahoma (12-1, 1-1), but he made two crucial turnovers in the final extra session, then missed a potential tying 3 at the buzzer.
“Craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Frank Mason, who forced Hield’s final turnover and made two free throws for the final margin. “Just proud of my teammates, never giving up.”
Jordan Woodard hit six 3-pointers and had 27 points for the Sooners, who were trying to extend their best start in 28 years. Ryan Spangler finished with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
It was a fitting conclusion for the first 1 vs. 2 matchup in two years, and the first pitting teams from the same conference since Ohio State and Michigan State of the Big Ten met on Feb. 25, 2007.
Woodard’s final 3-pointer gave the Sooners a 106-104 lead, and they still led 106-105 when Hield was stripped by Mason with 17 seconds left. Graham took a pass in transition and was fouled at the other end, converting both free throws to give Kansas the lead.
After the Sooners called a timeout, Hield threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds pass, and Mason added two more free throws with 8.6 seconds left for the final margin.
“I wish I had one more overtime,” said Hield, who hit eight 3s and finished 13 of 23 from the field. His 46 points matched Wayman Tisdale for the sixth-highest scoring game in school history.
The Jayhawks looked like they would end it in regulation after Hield made two free throws with 21.3 seconds left to tie the game 77-all. But after Mason charged the lane with 6 seconds left and missed the shot, Kansas forward Landen Lucas was called for a foul on the rebound.
Khadeem Lattin went to the line at the other end with 2 seconds left, but the 52-percent foul shooter clanked the front end of a 1-and-1 off the iron to force overtime.
The teams traded baskets in the extra session, and Ellis hit a 3-pointer from the wing to tie the game 86-all with 1:15 left. Both teams squandered chances to take the lead, and Selden’s open 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer came up short to force a second overtime.
Kansas had the final shot in the second overtime after Isaiah Cousins missed at the rim and Spangler couldn’t get his tip to go. Mason again drove the left side of the lane, but this time he pulled up for a short jumper that was never close, and the game was headed to a third OT.
The game shaped up as one between the brilliance of Hield and balance of Kansas.
The Jayhawks controlled most of the first half, hitting seven 3-pointers and twice taking an 11-point lead. But every time things got comfortable, Hield put everyone back on edge.
The senior answered with two foul shots when Kansas took a 24-16 lead, then provided a long jumper a couple of minutes later. But it was his 3-pointer when the Jayhawks had established a 32-21 lead late in the first half that once more changed the complexion of the game.
After trading baskets, the Sooners closed the half with an 18-3 charge.
Woodard hit consecutive 3s and scored nine points during the run, but it was Hield who scored the final three from the foul line. The first two came after coach Bill Self bolted off the Kansas bench to protest a foul and was hit with a technical foul with 3.9 seconds remaining.
The Sooners slowly stretched their 44-40 halftime lead to 10 early in the second half, only for the Jayhawks to storm back before a frenzied, sold-out crowd packed inside the old fieldhouse.
It turned out both teams were only getting started.
“Given what’s at stake and the stage and all, I don’t know that I’ve been in one better,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “It was terrific, a grind both ways.”
THREE OTS: This was the second 1 vs. 2 matchup to go three overtimes and Kansas was in both. No. 1 North Carolina beat the second-ranked Jayhawks 54-53 in triple overtime in the 1957 NCAA championship game.
Oklahoma: Hield played 54 minutes, Spangler played 51 and Woodard 50. Woodard fouled out in the final seconds of the third overtime. … Oklahoma finished 16 of 33 from 3-point range.
Kansas: Ellis played 53 minutes. … Mason finished with 15 points and six assists. … The Jayhawks were 11 of 22 from beyond the arc. … The Jayhawks had 12 shots blocked by Oklahoma.
QUOTABLE: “We beat a team that could win a national championship.” — Self.
Oklahoma hosts Kansas State on Saturday
Kansas is at Texas Tech on Saturday.