We've seen this script before. KU comes out of the gates, punches us in the mouth first, and we spend the entire remainder of the game either trying to catch up, or get run out of the gym from the whistle. It was the former this time around.
KU (18-3, 7-1 Big 12) jumped out to a 20-5 lead in the first 8 minutes of the game, and clearly looked to be the better team, both holistically, and individually at every single position on the floor. From that point on, K-State actually outscored the Jayhawks by four, but the damage had already been done. The Cats cut the lead to as few as 10 on a couple of occasions - causing a little stir amongst the crimson and blue - but never seriously threatened the lead. Every time we managed to make a little run, KU would come up with a way-too-easy bucket off a lapse of defensive focus, and was able to tread water.
K-State managed to put all of 17 points on the board in the first half, their second lowest output of the season. The half was predicated by KU's ability to easily find inside buckets with great interior passing and fluid driving to the basket, and was supplemented by timely outside threes. The Wildcats didn't turn the ball over in great quantities, but the KU defense was absolutely stifling. K-State had a difficult time finding open shots anywhere on the floor, in the paint or out on the perimeter. KU led at the half, 33-17.
The second half was more of the same. Gipson and Foster both kept K-State in sight of the Jayhawks, but ultimately, a third person was needed from a scoring perspective to overcome the terrible start. That cavalry never appeared. A couple of late threes by Stephen Hurt in the last minute kept the score respectable. After mustering only 17 points in the first half, K-State outscored KU 40-35 in the second stanza for the final score.
First the most egregious of the bad stats: K-State managed 17.1% from the floor in the first half (6-35). This is the worst shooting half from K-State since 1996. Decent shooting in the second half brought K-State's shooting percentage back up to 33.3% from the floor for the game (20-60).
As I expected in the preview, KU didn't force many turnovers. The Wildcats only committed 7 turnovers for the game, much below the season average of nearly 14.
To further exemplify the horrendous shooting in the first half, K-State went 7:09 - from a layup by Thomas Gipson at 18:08 to a short jumper by Gipson at 10:59 - without making a field goal. In that time, the Wildcats scored only three points (two free throws by Nino Williams, and a FT by Marcus Foster), went 0-8 from the floor (0-3 behind the arc), and gave up 16 points to KU.
K-State Player Of The Game: Thomas Gipson
Gipson busted his ass inside all game, fighting the longer (but skinnier) Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor for 30 minutes. Big Gip came up with 19 points on 7-13 FG, 5-7 FT, and contributed a team-high 7 rebounds. Gip was big in keeping things from getting out of control in the first half, and came out and scored a couple of big buckets at the beginning of the second half to keep K-State in sight.
Other Player Notes
Marcus Foster actually played pretty well for the 35 minutes he was on the floor, but couldn't hit water if he threw it off a boat in the first half. His shooting found a bit of rhythm in the second half, finishing with 19 points on 7-18 shooting (3-10 3PFG), 2-4 from the line, and also chipped in 6 rebounds and a steal. Marcus also played solid on-ball defense in dealing with KU's Wayne Selden Jr. and Frank Mason.
Nino Williams did get the start and played most of the first half, but his injured knee was clearly bothering him. Nino finished with 4 points on 1-7 shooting (2-2 FT), and also came up with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
Stephen Hurt made two late threes to finish with 6 points, 2 rebounds and a swat.
KU posted four double-digit scorers, including Perry Ellis (16 points, 12 rebounds), and Frank Mason (10 points), who continued an 18-game double-digit scoring streak. Wayne Selden Jr. added 14 points and 4 blocks, and sharpshooter Brannen Greene came off the bench with 11 points.
1. Play From The Tip.
If you don't start well against KU in Allen Fieldhouse, you don't win. Bill Self has lost 9 games at home since he took over the program. This isn't something new...The Jayhawks usually win their home games in the first 10 minutes. Opponents know exactly what they're getting into - the question is whether they can do anything about it.
2. We Didn't Give Up.
Yeah, we got knocked to the canvas in the first round. But the guys didn't give up. No one did. We aren't looking for moral victories here, but this team a month and a half ago would have packed up and got blown out by 30. Gipson, Foster, and the rest of the team kept plugging away, and while lapses did happen, they kept playing hard for 40 minutes. That's good for wins more often than not.
3. Don't Let This Loss Beat You Again.
We've got to go on the road this week and pick up a win in Lubbock, and the best way to do that is to forget about the result of this game right now. Focus on beating Tech, not on losing to KU. Taking down Tech is imperative, with home games against Texas and Oklahoma sandwiching a road trip to WVU immediately following.
#EMAW packs their bags and heads south to Lubbock, Texas to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday, February 4.