The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Kansas State Wildcats, 78-75, in a Big 12 men’s basketball contest at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas, on Saturday.
In one of the Big 12’s truly great rivalries, the Jayhawks (16-2, 5-1 in Big 12) and the Wildcats (10-8, 2-5) put on a dramatic showdown. One Wildcat, Nijel Pack, had a career high. The Jayhawks had to rally from 16 points down at halftime. And it all led to one wild finish in the place they call the ‘Octagon of Doom.’ Plus, Big 12 officials. This one will be remembered for a while.
Here are our three thoughts from the game.
Nijel Pack Goes Off
How big a game was this for the Kansas State sophomore guard? He had a career-high in points with 13 minutes left in the second half. By then, he had 28 points.
I noted in a piece last week, I think in my power rankings, that Pack is one of the conference’s underrated guards, at least outside of Big 12 country. Coaches and players KNOW Pack is good. Folks outside Big 12 country don’t.
Well, it’s a shame this game was on Big 12 Now, as opposed to being on one of the main ESPN networks. It would have been a great education for them.
Pack fueled his career-high afternoon with an incredible game from beyond the arc, finishing 8-of-12. He ended up shooting 12-for-18 from the floor and went 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. He did all this while helping to run K-State’s offense, as he finished with two assists, along with four rebounds.
Oh, did I mention he finished with 35 points? Yeah, let’s not forget the career high.
This Wildcats team is a better team in part because of the transfers, most notably Mark Smith and Markquis Nowell. But, they’re also a better team because Pack is making big moves in his second season of college basketball.
It IS a 40-Minute Game
Kansas was down 16 points at the break. The Jayhawks didn’t shoot that poorly (40 percent). Kansas also had an advantage on the glass (18 to 11). But it ran into a buzzsaw in the Wildcats, who shot nearly 60 percent from the floor and, you know, that Nijel Pack guy?
Well, look at Kansas in the second half and the Jayhawks’ shooting percentage did go up to 48.3 percent and the rebounding edge did go up to 27 to 12. And, Kansas State came back to earth, shooting 29.6 percent. But it was more than numbers.
First, Kansas re-committed to the defensive end and started making things much harder on Pack and the Wildcats. That included cutting off drives and making it more difficult to get to the basket. It also means following Pack more closely along the floor. Then, on the offensive end, it was about effort, especially on the offensive glass. At one point the Jayhawks got four shots on one possession. Even though Kansas failed to get the points, it was clear Kansas was active and Kansas State was standing around at times.
You could say Kansas weathered the storm in this one and didn’t panic.
How Kansas Won It (and The Refs Clearly Missed Something)
Kansas State led 75-69 at the under-four time out in the second half. Kansas chipped away with free throws from there. One from Ochai Agbaji. Two from David McCormack. Three from Agbaji.
No, wait a minute. Two from Agbaji?
With 55 seconds left Agbaji was fouled Kansas State’s Selton Miguel, who tripped while trying to fight through a pick by McCormack on the perimeter. Miguel, with nowhere to fall but underneath Agbaji, undercut him. If you watch the replay, it’s absolutely clear that Agbaji was behind the 3-point line. Yet, the game officials awarded him just two free throws. He made both and Kansas was still down a point.
The Wildcats caught a huge break. But, they couldn’t cash in on it. Markquis Nowell had a layup blocked by Kansas’ Christian Braun. Nowell then missed a long 3-pointer, which was rebounded by Agbaji. On the other end, it was Agbaji who turned a McCormack screen into a layup and a one-point Kansas lead with eight seconds left. Kansas State still had a chance. But Pack’s long 3-pointer failed to fall. Kansas ended up winning by three. Agbaji scored the last five points of the game for KU and helped them to a 9-0 run in the final 2:59 of the game. So, the potential All-American did what potential All-Americans do.
It was opportunity lost for Kansas State, which missed its final six shots from the floor.
For Kansas State, along with Pack’s 35, Nowell had 16 points and Selton Miguel added 11 points.
For Kansas, Agbaji finished with 29 points, while Jalen Wilson scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds, while Braun scored 11 points. McCormack finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.