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The Day After: Kansas State, Part Deux
It was a wild night in Manhattan, with the home team — not to mention the atmosphere — winning out in an 85-82 overtime victory for Kansas State, just the fourth win for the Wildcats over Kansas in the past 52 games.
Despite 10 ties and 20 lead changes, K-State controlled things most of the way, taking advantage of poor Kansas defense and a cold shooting night from most of the Jayhawks' big guns.
KU never led by more than two points and only forced overtime because of a frantic stretch in the final two minutes. The Jayhawks opened the overtime with a Tarik Black layup to take a 71-69 lead, but Kansas State scored 11 of the next 15 points to take an 80-75 lead with 1:14 to play and then salted the game away at the free throw line.
There are a million stats you can point to that illustrate the reason Kansas came up on the short end of this one. The Jayhawks missed 11 free throws. They shot just 3-of-17 from three-point range (and one of the makes was a meaningless swish at the buzzer) and they allowed K-State to shoot 49.2 percent for the game, including 57.7 percent in the second half and 66.7 percent in OT. For my money, though, this one came down to the fact that the team that played harder and seemed hungrier came out on top. Credit the Wildcats and their coaching staff for that, along with the impact of the frenzied fans who filled Bramlage Coliseum.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – When you look at the aforementioned statistics and consider the way Kansas played out of sync all night, it's pretty wild to think they still almost came away with the victory. I don't think KU played all that well and I definitely think more than a few guys had really odd nights. But enough Jayhawks fought hard enough to force overtime and give KU a chance to win despite a pretty awful night on both ends of the floor. The fight shown by Andrew Wiggins, Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis, Tarik Black and Brannen Greene was the biggest reason.
2 – Speaking of Brannen Greene, he definitely made his case for more playing time if for no other reason than the heart he showed to help Kansas erase a nine-point deficit in the final 1:58. Greene's put-back dunk and steal and layup in a six-second stretch single-handedly gave KU hope. The freshman forward played just 15 of 45 minutes yet finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. He leaves a little to be desired defensively and occasionally falls victim to mental lapses, but he's a gamer and he almost always carries himself with poise. I'm not saying start him, but it's cool to see him becoming more and more reliable.
3 – After being virtually non-existent in the first half, Naadir Tharpe's second half was rock solid. His clutch buckets in the waning minutes kept KU breathing and took some of the pressure off of Wiggins having to do it all. Tharpe, who was scoreless in the first half, finished with 13 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes. He didn't shoot it that well (he was just 6-of-13 and 1-of-5 from downtown) but the ones he made came in tough spots.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – For the second time this season, the Wildcats exposed KU's half-court defense and scored a ton of points right at the rim. Forty percent of K-State's points (34 of 85) came on either dunks or layups, including 22 of 40 second-half points, good for 55 percent. A month ago, in Lawrence, the Wildcats had similar success (26 of 60 points at the rim for 43 percent) but it didn't matter because Kansas was great offensively and the Wildcats did not shoot the ball as well from outside the paint. In this one, though, it mattered a ton, as each KSU layup not only made it tougher for KU to crawl back into it but also appeared to deliver a significant mental blow.
2 – It was another slow night for Joel Embiid, who contributed just 6 points and 6 rebounds in 18 injury-plagued minutes. It's not so much the production here that's a concern. It's the fact that Embiid is pretty banged up. KU coach Bill Self said after the game that the 7-foot center needed some time off and whether that means taking it easy in practice or perhaps even missing a game or two remains to be seen. Either way, it's definitely necessary because Embiid is not very effective right now and the team is suffering because of it.
3 – Although the details of his benching remain unclear, sophomore forward Jamari Traylor did enough to anger his coach and earn a permanent spot on the bench in this one. All kinds of rumors about how and why Traylor ticked Self off exist. They're irrelevant. What matters is that Traylor's poor judgement put his team in a bad spot, a fact of which he's very aware. After the game on Twitter, Traylor wrote to his followers: “I will never put myself in this position again...” On a night when Perry Ellis fouled out, Tarik Black reinjured his ankle and Embiid could only play 18 minutes, the athletic big man could have made a major impact for Kansas.
One thought for the road:
KU's overtime loss at its in-state rival:
• Moved KU to 18-6 on the season, against the nation's most difficult strength of schedule.
• Made Kansas 9-2 in Big 12 play.
• Made Kansas 61-55 all-time in overtime games.
• Ended a six-game Kansas winning streak over Kansas State.
• Made KU's all-time series record against the Wildcats 187-92, including a 40-4 mark in the Big 12 era and 23-3 inside Bramlage Coliseum.
• Made Bill Self 23-4 all-time against KSU (22-4 while at KU).
• Gave Wildcats' head coach Bruce Weber his first career win against Kansas. He's now 1-5.
• Changed Bill Self's record to 318-65 while at Kansas and 525-170 overall.
• Made KU 2,119-818 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home at 3 p.m. on Saturday to take on TCU, which currently is winless in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks rocked TCU 91-69 in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 25 and will be looking to sweep the season series.