The Kansas Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2) fell 85-82 in overtime Monday to the Kansas State Wildcats (17-7, 7-4). There was just an overwhelming feeling all game that some of the Jayhawks just weren’t into the contest mentally.
The Wildcats and their fans were fired up though. The crowd provided great energy and the players fed off that energy all game. The Kansas State players just looked to be working harder, and they appeared to care more about the outcome. They weren’t just going through the motions.
It is really unexplainable how the Jayhawks even pushed the game to overtime. They had a really horrible night shooting the ball in just about every aspect. Most of that was due to Kansas State pressuring the ball at all times, and they challenged every shot, inside and out, never allowing an easy look at the hoop.
The Jayhawks spent a lot of time on offense dribbling the ball instead of passing it, and it showed in the results.
The end result was that Kansas shot 41.8% from the field, and just 17.6% from behind the arc.
Kansas’ top four freshmen – Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden Jr., and Frank Mason – all played incredibly uninspired. Wiggins played the most, logging 38 minutes, but he was absolutely awful on the offensive end of the court. He was just 4 for 12 from the field, including 0-4 from 3-point range, and inexplicably, he was only 8 for 15 from the free throw line.
Embiid scored 6 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in 18 minutes but was either hurt, and just plain ineffective, especially on defense. Selden was even worse, scoring only 2 points, with no rebounds in 28 minutes. Mason saw 6 minutes of play but did little to impress.
Jamari Traylor did not play for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.
Remarkably, Kansas had two players with double-doubles. Naadir Tharpe notched one with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Perry Ellis led the team in scoring with 19, and rebounding with 11. Unfortunately, these two are Kansas’ worst defenders, but they each had to play a ton of minutes for the team.
Three other freshmen – Brannen, Greene, Conner Frankamp, and Landen Lucas – all saw more playing time than usual, and all played fairly well, especially Greene and Frankamp, who combined to score 16 points.
Marcus Foster only scored 7 points in the previous match up between these two teams last month, but cut loose for 20 in this game, as the Jayhawks had trouble containing him. He was 5 for 10 from the field, but hit 4 of his 5 three-point attempts.
Will Spradling came up big in his last Sunflower Showdown at home. He scored 15 points, and seemed to be the one who made a big basket when the Wildcats really needed one.
The Wildcats three main inside players, much less ballyhooed than their counterparts, played with a fierce intensity all night. Individually, their statistics were not overly impressive – Thomas Gipson, 9 points, 3 rebounds, Nino Williams, 8 points, 3 rebounds, and D.J. Johnson, 9 points, 4 rebounds – but they were more physical and intense than the plethora of Kansas big men.
Kansas State won despite battling some injuries and dehydration. Shane Southwell suffered a foot injury, and tried to gut it out until Coach Bruce Weber sat him the final minutes of regulation and overtime. Omari Lawrence suffered from some painful looking cramps for much of the second half.
Yet, the Wildcats maintained their focus, and did not fold when Kansas found a way to force overtime. They came back in the extra period to re-establish their dominance, and to eventually win the game.
The Kansas defense didn’t appear to disrupt the Wildcats at all. Kansas State hit 49.2% of their field goals, and 53.3% of their three-point attempts. The Wildcats were successful at shooting the basketball, and they prevented the Jayhawks from being successful.
In this game, in Manhattan, Kansas State was clearly the better team. They played much more inspired basketball than the Jayhawks did, and they continue to dominate this season in Bramlage. Bruce Weber is showing everyone that last year’s Co-Championship with Kansas wasn’t a fluke.