All square: No. 8 Kansas tops 7th-ranked Kansas State, 90-78, evening the season series and their records

Kansas forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24) gets airborne for a bucket over Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson (11) during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

What took the Kansas men’s basketball team 45 minutes in the first meeting with K-State was accomplished in just 10 minutes and 44 seconds on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse, where the 8th-ranked Jayhawks ran past No. 7 Kansas State, 90-78.

After hitting 6 of 29 3-point attempts in an 83-82 overtime loss in Manhattan two weeks ago, the Jayhawks made six of their first 10 3-point tries on Tuesday on their way to 11-of-27 shooting from behind the arc in the rematch.

That was more than enough for the Jayhawks to get revenge, topping the Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse for the 17th consecutive time.

KU guard Jalen Wilson, who led the Jayhawks with 20 points, said the scenes of KSU fans on the floor and purple people celebrating the win two weeks ago was still fresh in his mind.

“I always remember stuff like that, of course,” Wilson said Tuesday. “We just understood that we had to come out and play today.”

Kansas coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks did not talk much about the last meeting leading up to this one, simply because he didn’t think they needed to.

“I think pride’s a factor whenever you play an in-state school,” Self said. “We talked about beating K-State, but we didn’t talk about K-State because of that (postgame celebration in Manhattan). We talked about beating K-State because they beat us the first time.”

Tuesday’s game, another foul-fest that featured 71 free throws and 47 fouls, was a high-intensity affair from the jump. The video board’s decibel reading just before tipoff topped 120, and the KU fans stayed at a fevered pitch throughout most of the night.

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) gets inside against Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson (11) and Kansas State center Abayomi Iyiola (23) during the second half on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks (18-4 overall, 6-3 Big 12) gave them plenty to cheer about, which only added to the wall of sound that surrounded James Naismith Court.

Much like the Wildcats in the first meeting, Kansas used a hot start from 3-point range to jump out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half. Jalen Wilson’s second of four 3-pointers in this one gave Kansas a 30-19 lead with 9:16 to play in the half and was the first sign that the Jayhawks would keep the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3) at arm’s length for most of the night.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) puts up a three over Kansas State forward David N’Guessan (3) during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

Just like in Manhattan, Wilson was the biggest problem for Kansas State in this one. KU’s All-American candidate did not quite reach 38 points like he did in the first game, but he seemed to have an answer, usually with a deep jumper, every time the Wildcats threatened to get close.

Wilson finished the night with 20 points, giving him 133 points in his past five games, the most by a KU player during a five-game stretch in the Big 12 era.

K-State coach Jerome Tang viewed Tuesday as a success in some ways.

“Our guys followed our game plan,” he said. “Wilson didn’t go for 38 tonight (like he did in Manhattan) and Gradey (Dick) didn’t get 20. Those (other) guys made plays.”

Wilson said that was a great sign for the Jayhawks and an indicator of what they can be when they’re at their best.

“I don’t have to score that to win,” he said. “We have a deep team and a confident team and when we play like we did today, for the most part, there’s not too many teams that can stay with us.”

Harris added a career-high 18 points for Kansas, including the first points of the game on an open 3-pointer. And Kevin McCullar Jr. scored 16 points to go along with 13 rebounds, prompting Self to call him as good a rebounding guard as there is in America.

Although the Wildcats cut into the Kansas leads several times throughout the rest of the game — getting it to as low as three late in the first half — the Jayhawks never let the K-State momentum linger, answering anything resembling a Wildcat run with one of their own.

It wasn’t just 3-pointers either. All nine Jayhawks who played scored at least three points, and Kansas got 19 points and great production from its often-quiet bench.

Bobby Pettiford had a tough baseline take to the basket for a reverse layup that was as good as you’ll see. Zach Clemence scored in the post and from 3-point range. Joe Yesufu hit his first 3-point attempt of the night and Ernest Udeh Jr. scored on a rebound and put-back just seconds after checking in.

Kansas forward Zach Clemence (21) puts up a shot over Kansas State guard Desi Sills (13) during the second half on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

“If our bench wasn’t good, we don’t win tonight,” Self said.

Kansas State did not do itself many favors in this one either. Tang received a technical foul in the first half after a foul call that went against the Wildcats. And Keyontae Johnson, despite scoring 22 points to help lead Kansas State, missed two dunks on a night when KSU needed every point it could muster.

KSU point guard Markquis Nowell led the Wildcats with 23 points, but KU’s defense limited KSU to 34% shooting for the night.

Kansas outscored Kansas State 28-20 in points in the paint, 21-12 in fastbreak points, 19-9 off the bench, 11-6 in second-chance points, 9-2 in blocks and 8-4 in steals.

It marked the second game in a row that KU’s bench provided good minutes in support of KU’s starting five. The Jayhawks had just eight points off the bench in the loss in Manhattan in mid-January.

The win moved Kansas into a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 race with nine games to go. Iowa State and Kansas State are also 6-3. TCU is just behind them at 5-3, and they’re all currently chasing Texas at 7-2.

Next up, the Jayhawks will travel to Ames, Iowa, on Saturday for an 11 a.m. tipoff with Iowa State.

See more photos from the Kansas Jayhawks’ victory over K-State here.


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