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Final: Kansas 102, K-State 83

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K-State was better (and worse) than expected in Lawrence.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Kansas
Those KU “sunflower” uniforms were, um...something. The Jayhawks sure played well in them, though.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State eclipsed 80 points on Kansas’ home floor but still got blown out, 102-83 Tuesday night in Lawrence. The No. 5 Jayhawks (23-4, 12-2 Big 12) shot an impressive 15-24 (62.5%) from three-point range and scored more than 100 points for only the second time in the 297 meetings between the Wildcats (14-13, 6-9) and Jayhawks.

K-State cleaned up the most glaring weakness from the teams’ first meeting, as the Cats only lost the rebounding battle 32-30. Of course, that impression may be skewed, given that KU hardly ever missed shots.

The Wildcats, for their own part, shot 47% from the floor (32-68), including 11-32 from three-point range (34%).

Early on, it appeared the game may be a balanced contest. K-State actually led 13-12 when Mike McGuirl hit a 3-point jumper with 14:46 to go in the first half. After Kansas stretched the lead to 5, a jumper by Selton Miguel and a layup by Markquis Nowell made it a 1-point game, 18-17, just before the under-12 media break.

K-State fans have seen this movie before. though. A 16-5 Jayhawk run gave Kansas its first double-digit lead, 33-23, just before the next media timeout. The Jayhawks stretched the advantage to as many as 16 before settling for a 53-43 lead at the break.

The last moment that K-State was arguably “in” the game was when Markquis Nowell connected on a three-pointer to make it 72-61 with just under 13 minutes to play. But KU ran off 8 straight points to open up an insurmountable cushion. They led by as many as 25 and, but for a cold stretch during the last five minutes, would certainly have scored 110 or more. Key starters and scorers for the Jayhawks, Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, did not leave the lineup until the century mark was hit on a Braun three to make the score 102-81 with 1:52 to play.

Five Wildcats hit double figures in scoring, led by Nowell, who had 20 points and 8 assists, but also 5 turnovers. After scoring 35 in the first game against KU, Nijel Pack was held to 13 on 5-13 (3-7 from three) shooting. Mike McGuirl hit three three-pointers and also scored 13. Selton Miguel had 13 off the bench. Mark Smith, after being held scoreless in the first half, dumped in 11 in the second stanza and corralled 9 rebounds, just missing a double-double.

Agbaji had 23 and Braun had 20 for the Jawhawks, who had 23 assists on 41 field goals.

Three (plus one) in the Key

  1. Where has the defense gone? Coach Weber’s teams can be agonizing to watch on offense. But they have always been able to hang their hats on tough man-to-man defense. Tonight, the Cats simply could not guard KU. The points-in-the-paint disparity (34-42) was not terrible by the Cats’ standards, especially considering the struggles of their post players. But it came at the expense of getting any pressure on outside shooters. If you give up 15 threes, you’re going to fight uphill. K-State’s 83 was not nearly enough to keep pace.
  2. In Manhattan last month, Nijel Pack was almost a one-man wrecking crew against Kansas. Tonight, KU got outside scoring from multiple players in the hideous, sunflower-festooned kits from Adidas. Five Jayhawks made at least two deep shots, with four of them hitting 3 or more. Those five players were a combined 15-21 from outside. Sometimes, a team just makes shots and you get beat. But that “Three-point percentage defense” stat that gets mentioned now and then? It’s all but useless. Want proof? Coming into tonight’s game, the Cats were “holding” opponents to 27.8% from outside. That was the third-best mark in the entire country. The Jayhawks can shoot. And they made K-State pay for sagging into the lane.
  3. Bubble burst? Maybe it was burst on Saturday by that dagger (hell—broadsword) three-point bucket to elevate Oklahoma State over the Wildcats. No prognosticator factored a K-State win in Lawrence into the Cats’ waning NCAA tournament hopes. But to have any shot at all, they must win the remaining home games against Iowa State this Saturday and Oklahoma the following weekend. A win at Texas Tech would seriously elevate their slim chances. But the only team to win in Lubbock all year has been the Red Raiders, themselves.
  4. Bonus note: Those uniforms KU wore. Woof. Never call the K-State Lavenders ugly again, you hear?