There have been a lot of very memorable games in the storied history of Kansas basketball. We are very fortunate to play in the Big 12, where memorable games in any sport are pretty much a weekly occurrence (unless KU is playing football, then it’s probably a blowout.), especially in basketball.
This article is going to be going over what I think are the Top 5 Big 12 Conference games within the last 10 years. This list is purely opinionated, so if you don’t agree with these picks, you can talk with me about it on Twitter. My handle is @lpourmirza (Sorry, not sorry for the shameless self-shoutout.). Anyway, let’s get right into it with number 5.
5. #9 Kansas at #14 Oklahoma State, 68-67 2OT; Feb 20, 2013
This game was a satisfying one to win. Oklahoma State had beaten us earlier in the year on our own home court, and Marcus Smart did his infamous backflip on the Jayhawk after the victory. We couldn’t lose to them. Not only would we have been swept by them if we lost, the winner of this game would move into a tie for first with K-State. We had to win this one and help increase the chances of 9 straight Big 12 championships.
This game was crazy. It was a sloppy, hard fought, defensive victory. There were 16 ties and 23 (!) lead changes in this one. In the second overtime, Markel Brown hit a clutch bucket to put Oklahoma State up with less than a minute left. I was nervous, and wasn’t sure if we were gonna pull the game out. Then, Naadir Tharpe came right back and hit a big shot to put us up by 1 point. Releford then got a steal on the next possession, and we were able to walk out of Stillwater with a win and a tie for first with K-State.
4. #6 Kansas at Iowa State, 108-96 OT; Feb 25, 2013
I’ll always remember this game as the “Elijah Johnson Game”. Johnson had been wildly inconsistent during his senior year, and he was extremely frustrating to watch. Before tip-off, this game had upset written all over it. We had barely beat them in Allen, needing a banked in from Ben Mclemore to send the game into OT, where we ended up winning. Early in the game, Bill Self got a technical foul. He said after the game that he got the tech on purpose to “inspire” his players. Whether that is true or not, it did work. Despite Iowa State making 17 threes in the game, and seemingly hitting every jumpshot and free throw that they put up, we were still battling and hanging around. Unfortunately, we were down by 7 with 5 minutes left, and Iowa State looked ever more likely to pull off the upset. Then, Elijah Johnson happened.
Elijah Johnson scored 25 of KU’s last 36 points! He finished the game with 39 points, his career high and his best performance as a jayhawk. Johnson buried a clutch three to make it a two point game, and then on the next offensive possession, was fouled by Georges Niang, and he hit 2 free throws and took the game to OT. Before the foul, there was a very controversial no call on a block/charge call. It looked like a charge, but the referee let the game play on, and Niang was called for a reach in foul, and the game went to OT after those free throws. In the OT Elijah Johnson couldn’t miss. He had two amazing heaves with the shot clock winding down, and KU kept giving him the ball. This didn’t really change the game, but Jeff Withey stayed in the game despite picking up his 5th foul, because Kevin Young claimed the foul for him. That’s the definition of a great teammate! Elijah Johnson would end up dunking the ball on a fastbreak to finish with 39 points, and was showered with boos from the Iowa State faithful.
3. #9 West Virginia at #3 Kansas, 84-80 OT; Feb 13, 2017
Bill Self called this the best win of his career. It’s hard to argue with that. This game was possibly the best comeback that I’ve ever seen. KU had just lost to Iowa State in their last home game, and we had blown a double digit lead in that game and lost in OT. If KU had lost, it would have been the first time since 1989 that KU had lost back to back home games.
KU was down by 7 at the half, and trailed for pretty much the entire second half. I’ve never seen so many fans leave Allen Fieldhouse that early in any game. The hope had been all but sucked out of the arena was KU was down 64-50 with two and a half minutes left in the game. I remember struggling to stay awake during the game. I almost fell asleep on the couch during the second half. I don’t know what compelled me to stay up and watch the ending of the game, but I thought that I may as well tough it out. Devonte Graham and Frank Mason willed us to victory in this game. Frank Mason and Devonte Graham hit back to back threes and cut the lead to 6 points with 1:50 left. Mason hit two clutch free throws and tied the game at 71, sending the game to overtime. The most memorable moment of the game came with 2 minutes left in OT. KU was up 76-71, and Devonte Graham had the ball. He sized up Daxter Miles, hit him with the double behind the back crossover, and buried a 3 right in his face and put us up by 8. Graham finished with 18 and Mason had 24 points (he went 16-18 from the line!), and we came out on top. The magic of the Phog was in full force that night, and West Virginia has yet to beat KU in Allen Fieldhouse.
2. #2 Oklahoma at #1 Kansas, 109-106 3OT; Jan 4, 2016
Two number 1 teams faced off on that January evening. This was the most hyped up game of the season. Oklahoma was number 1 in the coaches poll, and KU was number 1 in the AP Poll. This game would decide who the best team in the country was. It was only the second conference game of the season, but it was by far the best one that year, and one of the best ever. This game was the definition of a back and forth game. They always say that basketball is a game of runs, and that statement definitely rang true on this day. Both teams held double digits lead at certain points in the game, and just when you thought that one team had momentum, the other team would snatch it right back. Buddy Hield had the greatest performance by a visiting player in Allen Fieldhouse, ever. He dropped 46 points, and that still wasn’t enough for the Sooners to walk out with a win. The game could’ve ended in regulation, when Landen Lucas was called for a foul on Khadeem Lattin with 2 seconds left. All Lattin had to do was make one of the two free throws, and the game was all but over. But, he missed the front end of the 1-and-1, and the game went to overtime.
All 3 overtimes followed the same pattern. One team would go up early, then the other would respond with a quick spurt of their own to make sure that the game didn’t get out of hand. Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden had chances to win the game in the first two overtimes, but they both missed their shots, so the game went to a third overtime.
The third overtime was another back and forth period. KU had the lead by 1 point, and Oklahoma was inbounding the ball with a chance to take the lead. Frank Mason slightly stepped forward to cover the inbounds pass, as there isn’t much room between the advertising boards and the court. Mason’s smart play ended up forcing a steal, and Mason was fouled. He sank both free throws to put KU up by 3. Buddy Hield’s last shot was short, and Kansas escaped with a huge win, and the title of best team in the country that week. Hield’s terrific effort didn’t go unnoticed, and he received an ovation from the home crowd after the game.
1. #3 Missouri vs #4 Kansas, 87-86 OT; Feb 25, 2012
Okay, maybe the game against Oklahoma was more entertaining. And maybe the West Virginia game was a better comeback. But those games don’t match the value and intensity of this game. This was the final Border War. To this day, these teams haven’t met in a competitive basketball or football game. This game left a lasting memory for all KU fans to remember.
Even if it wasn’t the border war, this game still meant a lot, considering that both teams were vying for a Big 12 championship. A top 5 matchup in Allen Fieldhouse on CBS. But, it was the Border War, arguably the greatest rivalry in Division 1 sports. The atmosphere was electric, with the sound reaching 120 decibels, because the fans knew that we may never play those scrubs across the border again.
The game didn’t start to well. Missouri jumped out to a double digit lead in the first half, and kept it at double digits until the half. Missouri then extended their lead to 19 points in the second half. They seemingly couldn’t miss. Then, the magic of the Phog struck again, like it has so many times. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor exerted their will on the game, and lead a furious KU comeback and made the game competitive. Conner Teahan, the walk-on, also went 4-4 from 3 with 12 points. He had the game of his life when we needed it the most. Thomas Robinson, who was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons ever by Jayhawk, had a huge and-one with 16 seconds left, and made the free throw to tie the game. KU had crawled back from 19 down. I didn’t think they stood a chance to come back. To this day, I don’t know why I kept watching when they were down 19, but I did. Robinson had the game saving block on Phil Pressey on the other end, and the game went to OT.
Overtime, a fitting end to a great rivalry. The overtime went back and forth. Robinson and Taylor on one end, and Marcus Denmon on the other end. The game came down to the very last possession. With 8 seconds left, Tyshawn Taylor was fouled. These two free throws were the biggest free throws of his life. He knocked down both to put KU up 87-86 with 8 seconds left. Missouri had one last chance to win. Marcus Denmon hoisted up a jumper, and it went in off the back of rim. But, he didn’t get the shot off in time, and Kansas walked out of the building with a win in the last Border War ever played as conference foes.
Unfortunately, this was the last border war. Kansas lost to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament, ruining the chance of a Kansas-Missouri Trilogy that season. And Missouri was upset by 15-seeded Norfolk State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, ruining the chance of a KU vs Mizzou national championship. Although the rivalry is over, this game is a fitting end to the Border War.
Future KU Student