LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Frank Mason III walked toward the court with his son by his side, flanked by his father, who tried in vain to hold back to the tears before his son played his final game at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I couldn’t believe that this was the last time,” the elder Mason said later, reflecting on the pregame ceremony. “It feels like a dream. He’s a hell of a role model. I’m proud to have a son like that.”
The senior guard proceeded to pour in 23 points for Kansas on senior night, and Devonte Graham hit a series of crucial 3-pointers in the second half, helping the top-ranked Jayhawks rally from a 10-point hole to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Monday night.
“I don’t think there’s been any player tougher than Frank Mason,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in the moments after the game, when he introduced Mason for his going-away speech. “Best guard I’ve ever coached.”
Graham finished with 16 points and Josh Jackson had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Big 12 champion Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2), who trailed 54-42 before finishing the game on a 31-11 run.
The Sooners (10-19, 4-13) were poised to spring a big upset on the day the Jayhawks ascended to No. 1 for the first time this season. But after they took their biggest lead with just over 10 minutes to go, Mason got the comeback started with a nifty basket inside.
He added a steal moments later to set up Lagerald Vick’s 3-pointer, and Jackson scored before Graham hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. And when Mason added another basket moments later, the Jayhawks had put together a 17-2 charge that gave them a 64-58 lead with about 5 minutes left.
“When we lost our composure a bit, it went south pretty quickly,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Just have to be stronger, fight through what’s happening. We weren’t tough enough during that time.”
Kansas slowly drew away to make senior night memorable for Mason, big man Landen Lucas and reserve guard Tyler Self, whose father — the Jayhawks’ coach — called him “my favorite Jayhawk of all time.”
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Tyler Self said.
Kameron McGusty had 14 points and Khadeem Lattin and Kristian Doolittle added 12 points apiece for the Sooners, who have won just once in 10 true road games this season. They’ve lost six straight.
There was a far different story brewing in the first half.
Oklahoma shot 25 percent from the floor. The Jayhawks weren’t a whole lot better. And with both teams turning the ball over on every other possession, it was a struggle for them to forge a 28-28 halftime tie.
It was a far cry from last year’s triple-overtime thriller between them at the Phog.
The Jayhawks so often bury teams at home coming out of halftime, but the Sooners made them work for it Monday night. They built a 43-36 lead when Jamuni McNeace got going inside, then stretched it to 49-39 when Lattin hit a pair of free throws with 11:35 left in the game.
Their high-water mark came moments later.
After that, it was all Kansas.
“If I had the chance to play here four more years, I swear I would.” — Mason.
Bill Self teared up as his son took the floor well after the game, with a full house still sitting in the stands, and delivered his finishing speech.
“Dad, you gave me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Tyler Self said. “You taught me what it means to be a man. I hope that someday I can be the father you are.”
Meanwhile, 5-year-old Amari Mason was in the stands for the first time to see his father play.
“He means the world to me,” Mason said in his speech. “Everything I do is for you.”
Kansas: Mason pieced together his 23rd consecutive game in double-digits scoring, a big reason why the senior guard is a national player of the year candidate. He got off to a slow start, but he showed senior leadership when the Jayhawks were making their late run.
Oklahoma: This is the first time since the 2011-12 season the Sooners will finish with a record under .500. Since the inception of the program in 1908, Oklahoma has only had 26 losing seasons.
Kansas visits Oklahoma State to finish the regular season Saturday.
Oklahoma has its own home finale against TCU on Saturday.