Kansas (29-5) used stifling defense and a second half run to beat K-State (27-7) and win the Big Twelve title. With the win, Kansas likely secures a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. K-State will also likely have a high tournament seed. With the loss, the Wildcats have now dropped 47 of their last 50 games versus the Jayhawks. That’s incredible to think about when you consider that K-State has been very good in recent years. The Jayhawks’ dominance of the series really goes to show how great the Kansas basketball program is.
Jeff Withey scored 17 points and pulled down 9 rebounds while Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe each scored 12 points off the bench. A win in the NCAA tourney would give KU 30 wins for the fourth strait year. Elijah Johnson showed the bad side of his streaky self, turning the ball over 6 times compared to 4 assists. As a team, the Jayhawks turned it over 14 times to K-States 9. After a Rodney McGruder layup trimmed the score to 41-50 with 8:36 left, Kansas went on a 12-5 run to put the game away. Perry Ellis, the star of last night’s game, scored eight of the Jayhawks’ points during this run.
K-State shot 35% from the floor, including a 6-24 showing from three point range, compared to 49.1% for Kansas. The two teams combined to score only 40 points by halftime, with the Wildcats putting up 16. McGruder led K-State with 18 points while Angel Rodriguez scored 10. Despite the loss, K-State goes into the NCAA tournament with high hopes. The team won 27 games and came in second place in a vastly underrated hoops conference.
There wasn’t much drama in this one. Bruce Weber came awfully close to earning a technical foul after berating the referees for much of the first half, but there were few exciting moments. Kansas freshman sensation Ben McLemore struggled tonight, going 2-7 from the floor with 5 points. He can’t be expected to set a career high every night, but a more consistent McLemore will be huge for a Jayhawks tournament run.
Much ado was made on Twitter over Kansas supposedly getting favorable calls. There were some questionable calls and no calls in this game, but the Jayhawks beat K-State by 16 points. Kansas only went to the foul line 14 times (2 more than the wildcats.) If the Wildcats want to be in a position to complain about the refs they need to sink more of their shots.
Overall, the game was a microcosm of recent Kansas-K-State history. If the Wildcats want to be taken seriously as a basketball power, they better start beating the Jayhawks or winning championships. They are awfully close to breaking through, but a deep run into this year’s NCAA tournament would do the Wildcats wonders.
Kansas is also eyeing this tournament as an opportunity. The Jayhawks’ entire starting 5 is likely to depart this next year. While Bill Self is phenomenal at reloading his team, this year will probably provide a better chance than next.