A raucous home crowd at the Octagon of Doom helped, but wasn't enough to push the Kansas State Wildcats over the hump. K-State dropped their first home game to the (2) Kansas Jayhawks in three years, falling 72-63 on Saturday evening in Manhattan.
Easily the most hostile environment KU will play in all year, the home crowd was loud and proud from the tip, roaring after every good K-State play, and letting the Jayhawks know exactly what they thought of them, too. The first half was a back-and-forth affair early, with KU taking the first lead of the game on a Landon Lucas free throw, but K-State would hit a couple buckets from Wesley Iwundu and Justin Edwards to take an early lead. KU battled back to take a 4-point lead into the first media timeout on points from the Jayhawks' big names - Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis and Frank Mason. Coming out of the media timeout, the Wildcats were able to knock down a few more shots, including a couple threes by Barry Brown, to carry a small lead all the way to the 5:00 mark, despite some questionable foul whistles on purple and inappropriate no-calls on the other end. Mounting foul trouble on the K-State bigs disrupted continuity (2 on DJ, 2 on Wade, 2 on Edwards, 3 on Budke), and KU was able to take advantage and build a 16-4 run to close out the half and go in to the locker room up ten, 39-29.
Coming out into the second half, Kansas would continue to ride that run all the way to a 17-point lead at the 15:03 mark, and it would hover around that range until 10:07. Suddenly, the zebras decided they would start calling things at both ends of the floor, and K-State was able to get to the free throw line and find some good shots. An unlikely duo, the pair of DJ Johnson and Stephen Hurt single-handedly chipped away at the massive Jayhawk lead. DJ would score 10 - eight from the stripe - and Hurt contributed two 3-balls and a dunk to cut a 15-point squawk lead down to just three with 2:11 to go. What seemed highly improbable early in the second half now looked entirely possible.
K-State was dominating over that 8 minute stretch, #EMAW was going nuts, and Perry Ellis' teammates were beating him up. Ellis suffered a split behind his ear from a friendly-fire knee that sent him to the locker room as a bloody mess; just a short spell after returning to the floor, he took a Wayne Selden hand to the face, poking him in the eye. All the momentum that could be had was on our side. As we've found before, though, K-State just hasn't learned to come from behind and close a game out. KU's Devonte Graham hit a free-throw jumper to put a curb on the comeback, and K-State couldn't find a good offensive possession the rest of the way. Possession free throws allowed KU to stretch the lead out late to the 9-point final spread.
It's hard to beat an opponent that scores as efficiently as KU does. K-State played solid defense, holding a relatively high-scoring opponent to only 72 points, but still gave up 50% shooting from the floor.
The Wildcats were able to put a lid on the turnovers, committing only 13 (compared to the 23 in Lawrence), and actually forced KU into 15 turnovers. However, KU was able to capitalize on those turnovers, outscoring K-State by 12 in points off TOs, 19-7.
Officiating in the latter stages of the first half was decidedly pro-KU, and decidedly pro-K-State in the latter part of the second half. 41 fouls called (21 on K-State, 20 on KU), and 52 free throws were attempted (22 by K-State, 30 by KU). Of note, K-State did connect on 18 of 22 from the stripe.
Co-Player Of The Game: DJ Johnson / Justin Edwards
Justin Edwards came out early with a lot of fire and got K-State started on the right foot, scoring 7 points early and grabbing 2 rebounds and an assist. He would finish with 11 points (5-12 shooting, 1-2 FT), 8 boards and 3 assists.
DJ was nearly invisible in the first half due to getting whistled for two quick fouls, and did all his damage in the second stanza. Banging around on the inside, DJ finished with 11 points (1-5 FG, 9-10 FT) and 6 boards before fouling out late.
Tigger Of The Game: Stephen Hurt
Note: Since HC Bruce Weber noted there are "a lot of Tiggers on this team," we're going to find that player that had an high-flying offensive play, stonewall defensive play, or a notable performance, and call them out here.
For a guy that doesn't get off the floor, Hurt actually had the only K-State dunk of the game, off a slipped defender in the second half. That dunk was sandwiched by two big 3's that helped put the Wildcats back within striking distance. The Big Fella nearly put up a double-double, finishing with 13 points (4-7 FG, 3-3 3PFG, 2-2 FT), 9 boards, an assist and somehow, 2 steals.
Other Notable Performances
Microwave tallied 13 points on 4-12 shooting (2-8 3PFG), and added 2 assists and 2 steals.
Wes was bottled up pretty well by the Kansas defense, finishing with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. Four turnovers were not a highlight, as KU's Devonte Graham was the only player on the floor with more.
Dean Wade was basically a no-show after picking up two quick fouls himself. Sitting on the bench most of the first half made him relatively ineffective in the second, finishing with a single point, no rebounds, no assists, and a single blocked shot.
Kansas' Perry Ellis scored 14 and added 2 rebounds and 2 assists, despite being sent to the locker room twice in the second half due to injuries. Frank Mason played the best game on their side, finishing with 16 points, 5 assists (to 1 TO), and 2 steals.
1. NCAA Postseason talk can officially end.
It is mathematically impossible to finish with a .500 or better record in the conference now. Taking this one was critical to keeping those hopes alive.
2. Lack of offensive execution.
Too many possessions where we're just standing around. Too many possessions where guys just look confused. We scored many buckets despite this fact. KU brought straight man-to-man the whole game. You could tell that our guys are sitting there thinking about what they have to do next. It works when we can get the ball circulated into a 3-on-2 advantage, but it just takes too long to get there, and the "plan B" is isolation or two-man game with 6 seconds left on the shot clock. The offense needs to be working to find good shots earlier in the shot clock.
3. BIG-12 REFS-SUCK *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap*
I'll just leave this one right here.
#EMAW has a quick turnaround, taking on Texas in the Octagon of Doom on Monday.