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Wildcats Down No. 13 Jayhawks, 74-67

Cartier Diarra punctuates the win with steal, showcase dunk in breakout game.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Kansas State
The signature play: Cartier Diarra windmills in the dagger that sinks KU in Bramlage
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes filled their senior “bucket” a little closer to the rim, as Kansas State beat No. 13 Kansas, 74-67, in a packed and rowdy Bramlage Coliseum Tuesday night.

Beating KU was one of several previously unaccomplished goals the three seniors wanted to achieve before graduating, and each of them contributed meaningfully to the effort. They got help from others—most especially redshirt sophomore Cartier Diarra and junior Xavier Sneed—to close the deal.

K-State (17-5 overall, 7-2 Big 12, first place Big 12), started fast behind Stokes, who found himself alone and nailed a three-pointer on the Wildcats’ first possession, then stole the ball from KU’s freshman point guard, Devon Dotson, and made a lay-up to give his team a 5-0 lead. The Wildcats would extend the lead to 8-1 when Dean Wade found himself similarly lonely beyond the arc and nailed his first shot off a Barry Brown assist.

KU (17-6, 6-4, T-4th Big 12), would get on track with three free throws and a banked-in three-pointer by Quentin Grimes, but a rebound put-back by Sneed and a steal and a nifty pass from Stokes to Brown on the break forced Coach Bill Self to burn a time-out half a minute before the under-16 break to gather his troops with his team trailing 14-6.

Gather, they did.

The Jayhawks deployed a 2-3 zone, extending to pressure the point and wings, but also cutting off the high post to deny entry passes. Sneed hit a three-pointer to push the margin to 17-8 with 14:49 to play in the half, but the scoring pace slowed considerably while KU whittled away the K-State lead. The Jayhawks forged ahead, 29-26, at the 4:41 mark on a Charlie Moore three. They would reach intermission leading 33-30. After putting up 17 points in a little over five minutes to open the half, the Wildcats managed only 13 in the last fourteen-plus minutes.

KU’s zone was not the only problem. Although K-State bottled up Dedric Lawson, holding him to 1-6 shooting and seven points in the half, the Jayhawks got unexpected contributions from role players Moore, who knocked down two tough threes, Dotson who got to the basket repeatedly and finished through contact, and Lightfoot, who gathered up offensive rebounds and stuck them back in the hoop for six points.

Two differences stood out at the half. Kansas had outscored the Wildcats 9-1 at the free throw line, and they had clubbed K-State 9-4 in second chance points. After turning the ball over twelve times themselves in the half, they were fortunate, indeed, to have the lead.

Bruce and the staff made adjustments, and Brown led the charge as the ‘Cats executed the plan coming out of the break.

The second half opened with KU extending its lead to 35-30, before Wade and Brown got busy. First, Wade got an “outwork-them” hoop by following his own short miss with a tip-in. Next, he hit a turn-around jumper from 14 feet. Once he established the high post, lanes opened, and Brown took advantage, driving down the paint repeatedly for his trademark contortionist buckets and for fouls.

Late in the game, Diarra joined the party. The 6’4 guard scored only 11 points, but five came on a clutch 3-pointer after KU had clawed back to within 3 late, and the other two on the aforementioned dunk. The throwdown was so impressive that it wound up on the front page of ESPN’s website immediately after the game. Cartier was 3-for-5 shooting, added three assists and two steals, and hit 3 of 4 free throws late to fully ice the game.

Overall, the Wildcats were balanced. Brown led them with 18 points, Sneed added 14, Wade had 12, Diarra 11 and Stokes 9. KU out-rebounded them by six, but the ‘Cats more than compensated by forcing 23 turnovers, 12 in the first half and 11 in the second. K-State, meanwhile, cleaned up its sloppiness in the second half, turning it over only 4 times to give them 12 total for the game.

The Jayhawks shot 46% (24-52) for the game, while the Wildcats shot 43% (25-58). In the end, three-point shooting made the difference, as K-State connected on 10 of 24 (41.7%), while KU, after two somewhat meaningless makes late by the Lawson brothers, made 7 of 20 attempts (35%).

Dedric Lawson ultimately got his points, with 18, on a 6-15 shooting night. He had nine rebounds, falling one shy of the double-double. Dotson was the only other Jayhawk in double figures, with 13.

Kansas State now sits, at least temporarily, alone in first place in the Big 12. Baylor plays at Texas tomorrow night, trying to keep pace. You won’t get to watch it, however, unless your television provider includes that travesty of a boondoggle of an outrage, otherwise known as the Longhorn Network. Come on, Big 12. How small-timey can you be?

What we Learned

  1. Despite decades of evidence suggesting it, KU is not invincible, after all. This year’s team has been beset by injuries (Azubuike and Garrett) and controversy (De Sousa), but they played their best game of the season Saturday against Texas Tech and looked as if they might be bowing up to extend the most ridiculous streak in major sports. They might still get that 15th title, of course. But the Jayhawks have been abysmal on the road and are now 1-6 in true road games after tonight’s loss. Bad breaks are part of the equation for everyone, and nobody will spare them a moment’s sympathy after they’ve given the entire league the Patriots’ treatment over the last decade and a half.
  2. K-State played with serious attitude. When KU rolled out the zone, stalled the Weber offense, and ultimately took a lead, it looked like the familiar, tragic script might play out again. Fans who had lit Bramlage early grew quieter, and doubt crept into the K-State fans’ social media universe. The Wildcat players did well to gather themselves and keep the margin workable until halftime, then systematically picked the Jayhawks apart with defense, crisper offensive execution, and some bold aggression. The Diarra dunk is not one you would normally see attempted late in a close game. But he scoffed at caution and did it, bringing down the house. When the team forced a last turnover and could have run out the clock, Brown went in for another dunk. It came after the buzzer and was ruled no shot, but it still made a point. That point: We will not be pushed around. In Barry’s own words:

Childish? Maybe. But they felt as if they needed to make the point.

3. Now...deep breath. Past Kansas State teams, after scoring monumental wins, have let down and suffered unexpected losses in their next game. The guys cannot afford to throw away the opportunity they have forged for themselves. The next game is against Baylor, now the leading contender to steal a title from K-State’s grasp. Win, and the squad not only takes true, sole possession of the conference lead; it would also tie a record for most consecutive conference victories (8) since 1977. Hear that, guys? There’s your motivation. As if you should need any more.