Jalen Wilson rounding into top form as Kansas prepares to host Oklahoma State
A rocky start to the season left Jalen Wilson scrambling to fulfill a role for Kansas that he seamlessly filled the previous season.
A DUI arrest drew a team suspension that caused Wilson to miss the first three games. He did not start until January but has gradually regained his productivity and will be coming off a 22-point performance Monday when No. 8 Kansas (20-4, 9-2 Big 12) faces Oklahoma State (12-12, 5-7) at Lawrence, Kan.
Wilson moved into double figures as a scorer (10.4) for the first time this season and leads the Jayhawks with a 7.2 rebounding average.
"At the beginning of the season I was just thinking that I need to play for myself," Wilson conceded. "Now I just think how can I make us better and what's the best play for us."
The Jayhawks will gladly accept the additional punch, especially since Big 12 rivals are beginning to lock down Ochai Agbaji, who has averaged 13.2 points in the past four games despite leading the conference with a 19.9 mark.
After the Oklahoma win, Kansas coach Bill Self said Agbaji must work harder to get open looks with opponents focusing on him, while the Jayhawks must play with more energy in general.
He also complained about his team's inability to screen well, a problem that subsides if the Jayhawks play with more bounce looking for more scoring opportunities off the glass and on fast breaks. They still shot 53.1 percent against Oklahoma but registered just 10 assists on 26 makes.
I'm disappointed," Self said, "but you gotta win some games when you struggle sometimes."
Kansas has won enough to maintain a half-game lead over Baylor in the Big 12 race, while posting 20 victories for the 33rd consecutive season, the longest active streak in Division I.
Oklahoma State has dropped five of seven while ineligible to play in the postseason because of a ban announced by the NCAA in early November following an appeal of a case tied to an FBI bribery investigation.
Nonetheless, the Cowboys are coming off an 81-58 romp Saturday over West Virginia behind 18 points and 10 rebounds from Moussa Cisse. A 48-24 rebounding advantage contributed to a 40-16 bulge in second-chance points.
Tyreek Smith drew his first start and provided Cisse some assistance underneath as Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton sought a better effort on the glass.
"To out-rebound them the way we did and be able to dominate the game inside was a testament to their competitive response," Boynton told The Oklahoman. "They met the moment."
Doing so on the road at Kansas will be a stiffer challenge after the Jayhawks rolled 74-63 in the previous meeting in the Big 12 opener on Jan. 4 at Oklahoma State. Kansas won despite missing its last 19 shots to end the first half tied at 29.
Isaac Likekele scored 16 points to lead Oklahoma State, which was coming off a 16-day pause because of COVID-19. David McCormack posted 17 points and 15 boards for Kansas, which also got 15 rebounds from Wilson and dominated the glass 50-36.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 13, 2022