LAWRENCE, Kansas — Kelly Oubre Jr. began the season on the bench. Cliff Alexander is still there at the start games. Both highly touted Kansas freshmen have gone through their share of growing pains.
They seemed to grow up quite a bit Monday night.
Oubre poured in 19 points, converting two driving layups down the stretch, and Alexander had 13 points and 13 rebounds to help the No. 11 Jayhawks hold off No. 19 Oklahoma, 85-78.
"They played a big part in tonight's win," said Perry Ellis, who added 16 points for Kansas.
The Jayhawks (15-3, 4-1 Big 12) led by 20 during a hot start, then watched their entire lead evaporate early in the second half. Oklahoma (12-6, 3-3) went on a 21-3 run out of the locker room to make it a game, only to come up short for the 14th straight time at Allen Fieldhouse.
"We played maybe as well as we can play in the first half," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "In the second half, we weren't as good — we missed some shots — but they were great."
Buddy Hield had 26 points to lead the Sooners, who still haven't won in Lawrence since Billy Tubbs was their coach. Isaiah Cousins added 18 points, Ryan Spangler had 13 points and 10 boards, and Jordan Woodward finished with 10 points.
"I'm proud of the guys for fighting back," Hield said. "We should have done a better job of executing in the first half, but Kansas did a great job of making shots."
Indeed, a rather tense finish was surprising given the lopsided start.
Kansas hit its first eight 3-pointers, one shy of the school record, and a couple almost defied logic. Brannen Greene missed a long jumper but got the ball back a foot beyond the arc and promptly knocked down the 3. Moments later, Frank Mason's 3-point try hit off the back iron, shot about six feet straight into the air and dropped right through the net.
By the time Devonte' Graham missed with 7:05 left to the break, the Jayhawks led 39-19, and still had a comfortable 51-32 lead when the teams headed to their locker rooms.
"We knew we wouldn't shoot like that in the second half," Greene said.
Oklahoma stormed back to the floor and went on a 21-3 run to open the half, taking advantage of a 1-for-12 start by the Jayhawks to close to 54-50 with 13:01 to go. Hield was the trigger for the run, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers along with dishing a couple assists.
"In the second half we turned it around a little bit, had a little bit more fight," Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. "We had a little bit of a chance there."
The Sooners kept clawing back, just as Utah did in rallying from a 21-point hole against Kansas earlier this season. And when Hield made the first of two foul shots with 10 minute to go, the visitors had a 59-58 lead — their first of the game.
Back and forth they went from there, two of the teams picked to battle for the Big 12 title, the intensity ratcheting up so high that Self slammed the electronic marquee at the scorer's table so hard that he knocked out an entire bank of lights.
The Sooners were still leading 71-69 with 3:45 left when Greene knocked down his third 3 of the game. TaShawn Thomas turned the ball over at the other end, his fifth of the game, and Mason hit a 15-footer to give Kansas a bit of a cushion with 2 1/2 minutes left.
Cousins hit a 3 to keep the Sooners alive, but Alexander punctuated his breakout performance with a dunk and Oubre glided in for a layup to make it 79-74 with a minute to go.
This time, the Jayhawks managed to hold their lead to the finish.
"It was a great, great basketball game," Self said, "and an unbelievable win."
Kansas F Jamari Traylor is dealing with a hip flexor, Self said. The starter was held without a point or rebound in 10 minutes, though he did commit two fouls.
Oklahoma had the Big 12's best 3-point field-goal percentage, but the Jayhawks were 10 of 19 from the arc. The Sooners also led the league in defensive rebounds but were out-boarded, 39-36.
Oklahoma was facing its eighth Top 25 opponent, including five of its first six in Big 12 play. ... Hield has scored at least 20 points in five of his first six league games.
Kansas improved to 64-8 under Self in games following a loss. ... Mason finished with 10 points, his 15th straight game in double figures scoring.
Oklahoma visits No. 21 Baylor on Saturday.
Kansas heads to No. 17 Texas on Saturday.