Arch sadness: KU’s season ends in St. Louis, in round of 32
Jayhawks shoot 33 percent in loss to Stanford
STANFORD 60, KANSAS 57
St. Louis ? This is not the way Andrew Wiggins wanted his college basketball career to end, sitting in front of his locker room stall with tears welled in his eyes.
“It hurts. I feel I let my team down, my coaches, my fans, Kansas fans, everybody,” the 6-foot-8 freshman one-and-done sensation said after Kansas University’s 60-57 NCAA Tournament Round of 32 loss to Stanford on Sunday in Scottrade Center.
“I wasn’t there for my team. If I would have been there, we would have won for sure. If I would have played better, scored more, my team wins. I blame myself for this loss,” he added.
First-team all-Big 12 selection Wiggins, who was leading scorer on a KU team that won a 10th-straight regular-season Big 12 title, suffered one of his worst outings of the season against Stanford.
He scored four points off 1-of-6 shooting with four turnovers, one assist, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 34 minutes.
“Wherever I went I saw three people. They were keying in on me,” said Wiggins, who, like the rest of his teammates, struggled against Stanford’s 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones. He was guarded by 6-7 Josh Huestis the times the Cardinal played man.
“Whenever I went right, I saw three Stanford guys. Whenever I went left I saw three Stanford guys. That’s no excuse. You are supposed to find different ways to score and different ways to get your teammates involved. I failed to do that tonight.”
Wiggins went so far as to say Sunday’s game was the worst of his life.
“It’s the toughest loss I’ve ever had to endure,” Wiggins said. “There are no second chances now. It’s over. Like in the Big 12 tournament, if we lost there, we had one more chance here. Now there are no more chances. It hurts.”
Wiggins said he never was “in the flow. I just played so bad.”
KU coach Bill Self said Wiggins simply had “an off day.”
“He’s been so good all year long. He wasn’t aggressive today, not shooting the basketball (but) going after balls, things like that. That wasn’t the guy we’ve seen the majority of the year,” Self stated. “A lot will be put on him or me or whoever. I guess that’s the way it should be, but the kid had a great year. I hate the last game he labored like this because he obviously is better than what was shown today.”
The Jayhawks, who finished the season 25-10, had a chance to win this one late despite horrendous 32.8 percent shooting.
KU used a 7-1 run to erase a 48-42 deficit and tie the score at 49 with 5:10 left. However, Stanford had back-to-back inside baskets from Dwight Powell (15 points, seven boards) and Huestis (eight boards, six points) and led, 53-49, at 3:11.
KU cut it to 53-51 on two Perry Ellis free throws at 2:04, but Ellis and Jamari Traylor missed inside shots at 1:17, Stanford making it 55-51 off two Powell free throws at :56.6. Stanford led, 58-51 at :32.4. Then KU freshman Conner Frankamp came in off the bench to nearly save the day.
He hit a three at :28.5 and after a Anthony Brown free throw, hit another trey at :14.9 to slice the gap to 59-57. Brown hit one of two free throws at :12.9, meaning KU had a last possession and chance to tie.
Frankamp, who was well guarded by Chasson Randle, missed a deep three with one second left. The shot was well off the mark.
“I wasn’t really open. I was trying to get the best look I could. Unfortunately I was off a bit,” said Frankamp, who had 12 points in 18 minutes. “There was nothing else I could really do (but launch shot after receiving handoff from Frank Mason),” he added.
“I knew when that left my hands I was off. I didn’t get a great look at it. I still have to try to capitalize on that if I get another chance like that.”
Frankamp had given the Jayhawks a spark before halftime when he stole the ball from Brown and drilled a three to give the Jayhawks a 24-22 halftime advantage.
“He is a great player. This was his coming out party, showing what he can do,” Wiggins said of Frankamp in the NCAAs. “He’s a great player. He can shoot, pass, everything. He has a bright future here.”
The Jayhawks were led Sunday by senior center Tarik Black, who had 18 points off 6-of-8 shooting with six rebounds in 26 minutes.
Black fouled out with 5:25 left after a questionable foul call on Powell, who hit one of two free throws to give Stanford a 49-47 lead.
“I thought my hands were straight up,” Black said. “I don’t think I committed that foul. The ref didn’t say anything to me about it, he just called a foul. They do their job. They just blow the whistle and that was his choice.”
“It (Black fouling out) hurt us a lot,” Ellis, who hit three of 10 shots en route to nine points with eight boards and three turnovers. “He had a great game. He was doing very well down there. It really hurt us.”
“Without question he was best player on our team,” Self said of Black.
Several Jayhawks struggled against the (23-12) Cardinal, which advances to a Sweet 16 meeting against Dayton on Thursday in Memphis. Wayne Selden scored two points off 1-of-5 shooting; Naadir Tharpe five points off 2-of-8 shooting; Jamari Traylor three points off 1-of-8 marksmanship. Mason was 0-for-4 from the field with two free throws.
“I thought we’d play well. The guys seemed loose (before game),” Self said, noting it looked like there were nerves during the game. “We were hanging out with the guys last night. They were excited. We had some good ‘pump up’ things to show them. But it’s a little bit different pressure (in NCAAs). When things don’t go well early, this and that. We’re a young team and played young a majority of the game.”
One of the youngest players, Wiggins, will leave KU with mixed emotions.
“It’s been a great year. The season ended too early, but it was a great year,” Wiggins said..
Asked what advice he’d give Wiggins moving on, Self said: “Everything is a learning experience with young kids. This isn’t the worst thing that’s going to happen to him in his life. If it is, he’s had a charmed life, there’s no question about that. You’ve got to learn to grow from it. When you get in these positions again, maybe do something a little differently maybe to put yourself in the game or prepare or something. But hey, the kid’s had a remarkable season.
“I’m sad for our team and I’m sad for him that it wasn’t our day or his day today. But still, I don’t think today should offset what he’s done for 34 games, 34 other games in which he has been terrific.”