Kings for a day: Jayhawks rise to No. 1, fall — hard — to ’Cats
Manhattan ? The new No. 1 team in the country didn’t play like the best squad in the land on Monday night in Bramlage Coliseum.
“The No. 1 ranking? After watching that? Geez … we may fall out of the polls next week,” Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self said after the Jayhawks’ 84-68 loss to unrated Kansas State.
The game came on the same day KU ascended to No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls.
“That wasn’t a very good team playing tonight,” Self added after KU’s worst loss to K-State since a 17-pointer (70-53) on Jan. 23, 1982, in Manhattan. The loss was also the Jayhawks’ largest margin of defeat overall since a 19-pointer at Texas Tech on March 4, 2009 (84-65).
“Let’s call it like it is: That was a beatdown,” Self added. “I thought they controlled the game from the opening tip. We were on our heels.”
Self was able to keep his sense of humor after his Jayhawks (24-2 overall, 9-2 Big 12) were burned by KSU’s Jacob Pullen to the tune of a career-high 38 points.
The senior guard hit nine of 17 shots, including five of six threes. He made 15 of 19 free throws en route to the 12th-best single-game scoring output against KU. It was the most points against KU since Michael Beasley of KSU scored 39 versus the Jayhawks on March 1, 2008, in Lawrence.
“You look at it from a positive standpoint, we held them to 46 points if Jacob didn’t play. That’s a good thing,” Self cracked.
Pullen’s 38 points were, in fact, the most points against a top-ranked team since Houston’s Elvin Hayes potted 39 for Houston versus UCLA in 1968. North Carolina’s Antawn Jamison had 35 versus Duke in 1997-98.
“Our play against him was poor,” Self said, adding, “He was fabulous. I don’t know that kid very well. He’s got 38 points on national TV against a team that doesn’t deserve it, but is ranked No. 1 in the country, against their arch-rivals and he defers to not shoot the ball to get 40 … (that’s) class.”
Self, in fact, stopped Pullen in a Bramlage Coliseum hallway to tell Pullen how impressed he was with his sportsmanship.
“We defended him poorly, but he was fabulous,” Self repeated.
The Jayhawks fell behind 18-10 and 30-16, as well as 42-33 at the half, but trailed by just five points (46-41) with 16:25 left, yet a 19-6 KSU run took care of that.
The performance of the Wildcats (17-9, 5-6) made some wonder if this was all about KU feeling the pressure of being No. 1. It was the first time KU immediately lost on the same day as being tapped No. 1 since 1994 in Lawrence when KSU beat the Jayhawks, 68-64.
“I don’t think where we were ranked had anything to do with how we played,” Self said. “Pullen had a lot more to do with how we played than any ranking.
Noted KU’s Tyrel Reed (14 points): “Obviously we were No. 1 and didn’t protect it well. We were not trying to protect it. Give credit to K-State. We couldn’t match them tonight. We had some opportunities the second half. We cut it to five and didn’t do anything with it. We turned it over or took a bad shot. That was our M.O.”
KU also had a pair of unfortunate plays. Markieff Morris was called for an intentional foul in the first half, apparently swinging an elbow, and Elijah Johnson was called for a technical foul for yapping after dunking with the Jayhawks down, 71-57.
“I mean, definitely those things have to be addressed,” Reed said. “We have to be a more mature team than that.”
KU juniors Marcus Morris had 13 points and four turnovers, Markieff Morris three points and no boards and Tyshawn Taylor eight points and six turnovers.
“Our three junior starters all had rough nights, without question,” Self said.
“I will not put a positive spin on this. We played our in-state rival in their building in a great atmosphere, and we didn’t respond,” Self added. “I heard Frank (Martin, KSU coach) say that when he’s come to Allen. I probably feel the same way Frank did leaving Allen (after KU’s 90-66 win on Jan. 29) as I do Bramlage tonight. They were without question the better team from the opening tip.”
Josh Selby (stress reaction in foot) had four points in 11 minutes. He was playing for the first time in four games.
“I wasn’t going to even play Josh,” Self said. “We had nobody else we could go to. He only practiced one day. Hopefully he can get back in the flow and be a contributor in a big way.”