We all know this, so it talking about it in any greater length is just beating a dead horse. The Kansas State Wildcats proved they could take on five, but not eight, as they dropped their annual matchup agains the Kansas Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse, 77-59.
Both teams came out cold from the opening tip, but K-State was able to find some open shots while contesting everything on the inside from the Jayhawks early. Amidst a slew of turnovers, the Wildcats were able to convert a few of those open looks. K-State jumped out to a 16-7 lead, and silenced the usually raucous AFH crowd.
Then the whistles started coming, and the turnovers started mounting. The combination of the two were clearly taking its toll on the young team. Despite missing a handful of bunnies, playing solid if not excellent defense, and controlling the glass, the "fouls" started mounting. At one point in the first half, Brian Rohleder and Austin Budke were BOTH on the floor. The Wildcats actually held a one-point advantage with just over three minutes to go, but KU was able to close the first half out on a 14-3 run to finish a 19-point swing, and take a 10-point gap into the locker room.
Similar to the first half, K-State was able to go on a 14-6 run to start the half and cut the Jayhawks lead to two with 13:39 left. And, similar to the first half, K-State got a little too close. Here come the whistles. The most egregious of which was a DJ Johnson "illegal screen", called because he stood perfectly still, in a legal screening manner, 40 feet from the bucket. That call, combined with five straight points from KU's Wayne Selden, sent the young K-State squad into a bit of a tailspin. Before the Wildcats could right the ship, KU would stretch the lead back out to 11.
Here come more whistles.
A technical foul called on Justin Edwards for accidentally catching Devonte Graham in the face with a forearm while trying to post up - discounting the fact that the diminutive Graham was essentially hugging Edwards.
A double technical foul - on Stephen Hurt and Landen Lucas - because Lucas was STANDING OVER THE TOP OF HURT WHILE HE WAS ON THE GROUND AFTER A LOOSE BALL.
You know, typical Big 12 "Self"-preservation. You can't win a championship without winning all your games at home. Wink, wink; nudge, nudge.
Let's also note the fact that when ESPN analysts Fran Fraschilla and Jon Barry - who's network has a direct financial gain in good teams staying good - start lamenting how many questionable calls were going against the visitor, you might have a problem. [cue Big 12 brass sticking head in sand]
Regardless, KU was able to stretch the game out to 18 with 5:02 left, essentially ending any possibility of a K-State road win in Lawrence. Some back and forth chipped the lead down to 14, and eventually 16 at what should have been the end of the game.
Then Brannen Greene commits one of the most disrespectful things you can do in competitive basketball - he goes in for an uncontested dunk at the buzzer, up by double-digits, while both teams were mulling around for the final horn. For any competitive player out there, we all know this is an unpardonable sin, and directly shows the character of the player, and at some level, the leadership of the team. For as much as I think that Bill Self is a smug, arrogant piece of work, his addressing of the Greene dunk in postgame as "the biggest dick move I've ever had a player do during a game"...well, it's on point. I'm curious to see if its just words. I'll spare the rant, but anyone that tries to justify this action in any fashion is just clueless and as classless as the miscreant that did it.
Why did K-State lose that game, ultimately? Twenty. Three. Turnovers. Including 10 steals. You all know how I feel about giving up steals.
Why was K-State able to stay in the game for the first thirty minutes? Rebounding. The Wildcats owned a 15-board advantage on the glass, including 13-2 in offensive rebounds.
Player Of The Game: Stephen Hurt
Stephen probably played the game of his life. He had a fantastic aggressiveness, was working the jumper as well as the post, and was snaring rebounds left and right. The Big Fella finished with the only double-double in the game, picking up 14 points (6-13 FG, 2-4 FT), and added 11 boards.
Tigger Of The Game: Wesley Iwundu
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.
I want to give this to DJ again, because while he wasn't getting screwed over by the refs, he was playing a fantastic game as well. But Iwundu provided some solid leadership, leading the way with 15 points on 5-7 shooting (1-2 3PFG), 4-4 FT, and adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists. His 6 turnovers were more of a condition of the ball being in his hands nearly every possession, and not necessarily being exceptionally sloppy with it. Wes played a season-high 37 minutes.
Other Notable Performances
Barry Brown tallied 11 points on 4-10 shooting, and added 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Carlbe Ervin got the start in place of the injured Kamau Stokes, but had some problems finishing at the rim. He went 0-6 from the floor (literally missing 5 layups), but was able to play solid defense and contributed 3 assists and 3 rebounds.
Austin Budke gets a mention, hitting his only shot - a top-of-the-key three pointer - and adding a rebound and assist. Notably, his defense on Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor was solid.
Justin Edwards' had a stinker. He was 0-for-the-world for most of the game, hitting a chip-in late for 2 points on 1-9 shooting. He did grab 6 boards, but for the most part, was entirely ineffective. We need more from the senior, regardless of the opponent.
Perry Ellis finished with 19 - many of them late - and 5 boards. Wayne Selden was held entirely in check, tallying only 7 points and zero rebounds. Svi Mykhailiuk scored 10 off the bench.
1. 30 minutes is not 40 minutes.
We were competitive for 30 minutes. The final 10, we weren't. That was the gap, and a 16 point gap, at that.
2. Executed gameplan.
K-State came in and executed their gameplan. It worked, for the most part; at the end of the day, we got the shots we wanted by and large, we defended passably, and we rebounded very well.
3. Freshmen weren't scared.
It's pretty easy to get wrapped up and intimidated by going on the road, especially down to Lawrence. The stage didn't look too big for our guys for most of the game, the mid-2nd half run notwithstanding.
#EMAW returns home to take on the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, February 7.