Is this thing on?
In an earlier-than-usual Sunflower Showdown tilt in the Octagon of Doom, your #13 Kansas State Wildcats (16-2, 5-1) took down the #2 Kansas Jayhawks (16-2, 5-1) in overtime, 83-82.
Both teams came out of the blocks a little overhyped, with K-State showing the clear symptoms of nerves we all hoped they’d avoid, committing a 2 half-court turnovers and missing several shots at the rim. However, KU followed suit, coughing up 8 turnovers in the first 10 minutes, allowing the Cats to get more shots up than their counterparts. Behind a torrid 5-for-5 start from behind the arc and overall 71% from the floor at one point, the Cats bolted out to a 33-14 lead. Keyontae Johnson poured in 10 early points to establish the purple position out front. Notably absent - Markquis Nowell, who could only muster 2 points, but did chip in 5 assists. Filling the role of Markquis Nowell is Desi Sills tonight, though.
About mid-way through the first stanza, KU settled down and started chipping away at the lead. The Jayhawks put together a 17-5 run of their own on the play of Jalen Wilson, K.J. Adams, and Joseph Yesufu. The run was helped by Johnson being called for a pretty weak foul - let’s be honest, it was a total guess by the officiating crew - and being pulled from the game with 5:38 to go. Nonetheless, KJ came back in for a final play of the half, hitting a bucket at the buzzer to ensure K-State went into the locker room up 44-39.
It was clear the dead-eye freshman Gradey Dick was a focal point of the Cats’ defensive preparations, not allowing him to get open for long range jumpers. While Wilson was getting his, Dajuan Harris, Kevin McCullar and Dick were all being held completely in check.
We all know the story. It’s happened more times this season alone than is physically possible in reality. KU struggles early, goes down, has some...ahem...assistance down the stretch, and ends up pulling out a close one on the place mat of a garbage call. This one looked to be headed in that direction.
Head Coach Jerome Tang said in his halftime interview that to win the game, K-State needed to maintain their poise, and throw jabs.
K-State and the Jayhawks traded more of the iffy play that plagued the first several minutes, with KU building a nice three-bedroom ranch house with all their bricks, and K-State doing a phenomenal job of not finishing in the paint. Treading water, the teams are still at a 5-point spread at the under-16. Meanwhile, Keyontae Johnson picks up another really questionable call and has to sit with 3 just three minutes into the half.
KU’s Wilson willed his team toward the finish line for this one. He’d come up with a bucket or two to cut into the lead, then K-State would come up with another good play to stretch the lead back out to two possessions. First it was Abayomi “Bay Bay” Iyiola with a great cut and bucket. Then it was a stepback 3 from Desi.
Finally, the rubber band snapped, and KU was able to cut the lead to a one-possession game the rest of the way.
In fact, an 8-0 run by the Jayhawks permitted by a team that looked gassed midway through the second half put the visitors up by 2, 59-57 with 8:00 to go in the game.
Just when you felt the air leaving the Octagon, K-State comes fighting back with Keyontae leading the charge. He makes 2 free throws to even the game back up. Nae’Qwan Tomlin comes up with a huge offensive rebound and putback to go up 61-59. Getting the ball into the paint gets KU’s McCullar to foul out with 5:47 left, and Johnson finiishes up a great 3-minute stretch with a drive down the paint for an and-one to put the Cats up 66-61, 5:15 to go.
KU comes back again, as can be expected. Wilson was having a night. K-State’s lead gets cut to 2, 67-65, by the under-4 timeout. Final 4 minutes...when stars shine brightest. KU actually takes the lead 70-69 with two Gradey Dick free throws, but Desi draws the 5th foul on K.J. Adams and ties the game at 70 with 1:43 to go.
Two heavyweights, throwing more jabs and body blows.
Suddenly, there’s the punch that gets through: Markquis Nowell - conspicuously absent nearly all game, comes up with a huge steal and coast-to-coast finish to put the Cats up 72-70 with 1:14 to go. KU scores on the ensuing possession - Wilson, again - to tie the game at 72.
Wildcats come down and have a couple of great inside looks that missed by Johnson and Tomlin, which ultimately ended in a wide open Quis three from the top of the key that...clanked off the rim. Chasing the ball down knocked it out to KU for a last possession with 11 seconds left.
The Jayhawks come down the floor to set up offense, and Tomlin picks off a KU pass at the top of the circle...
Passes up to Johnson on the break...
Who gets bodied up and misses the layup to win it at the buzzer.
To overtime we go, tied 72!
Trading K-State free throws and KU buckets allows KU to take a one-point lead, 77-76 on an and-one of his own (did I mention he had a night?). However, continued offensive pressure on the bucket by the Cats caused Dick to slap one too many times, as he picked up his fifth foul with 1:31 left in OT. Johnson makes two free throws to tie the game at 80.
Wilson makes two free throws of his own to Keyontae’s one, giving KU a lead of 82-81 with 1:06 to go. Jalen Wilson takes a 3 and make it to go up 85-81...but KU Coach Bill Self calls timeout before he shoots it! Huge break for the Cats, as Cam Carter gets an important board off of a Dajuan Harris missed 3; K-State brings the ball into the frontcourt and calls timeout to set up a play with about 30 seconds left.
Coming out of the timeout, Quis gets the ball over to the right wing, Keyontae cuts backdoor and QUIS LOBS AN ALLEY-OOP FOR THE DUNK TO PUT THE CATS UP 83-82 WITH 24 SECONDS LEFT!
Final possession for the Jayhawks sees them waste a bit of time outside, never really getting a great look under the K-State defensive pressure, and Dajuan Harris eventually loses the ball to Quis and Ish Massoud, who tips out to who else - Keyontae Johnson - as time expires.
Player of the Game
Keyontae Johnson. Duh. He worked for his, but played like a star, scoring 24 points on 7-17 shooting, converted 8-9 FTs, and amassed 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. It was clear he was carrying this team across the finish line, and the second alley-oop dunk to close out an opponent in three games guaranteed him this spot.
Honorable mention: Desi Sills. Sills, who played 34 minutes off the bench, came up huge with 24 points on 7-11 shooting (2-3 3PFG, 8-9 FT), and added 4 assists and 3 steals. Truth be told, if K-State loses this game, Desi probably gets the POTG call-up.
Honorable Mention (2): Nae’Qwan Tomlin. Tomlin had a double-double (15 points, 10 boards) with 2 steals and a blocked shot in 40 minutes of game time, before fouling out in the overtime period.
Of note: As Dick was obviously a focal point of our defensive scouting, so to was Quis. Markquis ended up only scoring 4 points, but still had 7 assists and 4 steals.
For the Jayhawks, Jalen Wilson showed why he’s one of the best players in the country as well. Wilson ended up with a career-high 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots playing all 45 minutes. Gradey Dick was irritated all night - he scored 16 points and had 7 boards, but went a paltry 1-8 from beyond the arc and 4-13 overall. Notably, the Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar was held scoreless with 5 fouls. K.J. Adams added 17 points before he fouled out as well.
Three In The Key
- This squad has the grit to find ways to win. We’ve seen the Cats win games uptempo, slowed down, and now in a game against a Top-5 opponent that could have gone either way. Three OT wins in league is a pretty high-strung way to live life, but you gotta give the squad credit - they’re wins.
- We proved we don’t need KJ and Quis to both have good games to beat good teams. The key to a solid conference season and winning games in March is being able to win games when your best players might be off. Seeing Desi come up big similar to the LSU game, and Tomlin fighting his way to a double-double show that this team is more than the KJ/Quis show.
- We need to improve our interior defensive presence. We - for the most part - struggle against teams that either have a notable interior player (see Butler, TCU) or can get downhill on us (see TCU, KU). We’ve got some pieces to be able to score back against our opponent, but points come in the paint just a little easier than is comfortable against the Cats. No idea on what the timetable for David N’Guessan returning from injury is, but sooner rather than later would be helpful. While he’s certainly not an eraser, N’Guessan’s size lends a little more interior presence to deter point-blank shots by our opponents.
- If you didn’t have a horse in this race, this game was probably pretty amazing to watch. The two teams both got 60 shots up. Rebounding was matched at 38 apiece. 12 steals for the Cats, 9 for the mythical avians. 15 turnovers each way. 24 fouls on K-State, 25 on KU. As much as I don’t care much for a free-throw shooting contest (the two teams combined for 67 total FTs), this went back and forth the whole way, just like a good boxing match.
- Octagon of DOOM. Boom. Got ‘em.
- I’m having so much fun watching these guys. Seriously. #MakeBasketballFunAgain
- Gerry Pollard sucks.