McGruder and KSU came out shooting, taking 30 three-pointers against the Jayhawks over the course of the game. But McGruder didn’t score until the end of the first half. McLemore sat for nine minutes of the first half with two fouls and both teams fought it out with Kansas leading by four at the break, a lead they held to the in during the 59-55 win.
Scoring didn’t pick up in the second half either. Both teams played strong defense. Kansas kept K-State from getting much going inside. K-State was quick and forced Kansas to make some mistakes and take bad shots. Both McGruder and McLemore picked it up, but they were the focal point of the other teams’ defensive efforts and neither found the space to take over. McGruder drew Travis Releford and was held in check but showed signs of getting hot in the early part of the second half. Kansas State worked him around screens and got him space to get shots off, and he hit three from outside in the first eight minutes of the second half.
McLemore wasn’t able to get the ball often enough to get his shots. He scored on a tip in and had a stretch of two baskets in a row, but only scored 11 points on seven shots. Releford led Kansas with 12 points and Jeff Withey added 11 of his own including what Bill Self called the biggest shot of the game, a jump hook with 2:44 left in the game to extend KU’s lead to seven points.
The shot came after a sequence that could have turned the game in a different direction. KSU had the ball in Angel Rodriguez‘s hands as the shot clock wound down and he tossed up an off balance shot as the horn went off. Play stopped as the officials reviewed the play to see if the shot had hit the rim or if it had simply glanced off the bottom of the glass. They ruled that it had hit the rim to reset the shot clock and, if play had continued, Withey would have gotten a block on a follow up shot and Kansas would have gotten the ball. Instead, K-State got the ball back with a new shot clock and the score at 54-49 in favor of KU.
Elijah Johnson stole the ball though, and got it to Withey in the paint for the hook shot.
Johnson’s struggles continued, as he shot just 3-10 and committed five turnovers. In two instances, he drove into the paint and had apparent opportunities to shoot, but opted to pass it off to Kevin Young. In both cases, the Jayhawks failed to score, once with Young missing a layup, then with Young turning the ball over. Perry Ellis played 18 good minutes, scoring eight points and adding four rebounds. He missed a few free throws, though, and the four spot for Kansas remains a shaky position. Young has played well, but at times his inexperience as a regular shows. Jamari Traylor only played two minutes and hasn’t been a factor in most games.
For Kansas State, Shane Southwell hit five three-pointers for a game-leading 19 points, but there just wasn’t enough offense for KSU. They got the kind of game they wanted, but Kansas has been winning ugly so far in conference play and Bill Self prides himself on having strong defensive teams.
This was the first Sunflower Showdown matchup in the post-Missouri Big 12 and if K-State can maintain its program’s development, this could be a solid matchup year after year. Kansas State’s fans were energized for most of the game, and when they would start chipping away at a lead or get a big shot in the air, the buzz intensified. That’s just good for the conference and college basketball. Still, Kansas has won 45 of their last 48 games against KSU. K-State’s just not there yet.
KU improves to 17-1 and 5-0 in the conference. KSU is 15-3 and 4-1 in Big 12 play. Both teams play their next game on Saturday, with KU hosting Oklahoma at 3:00 p.m. CST. K-State will travel to Ames, Iowa and take on the Iowa State Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum starting at 12:45 p.m. CST.