Kansas State (16-2, 5-1 in Big 12) beat Kansas in Jerome Tang’s first game coaching against the Jayhawks.
Kansas (16-2, 5-1) became the final Big 12 team to lose a conference game and saw its record in games decided by single-digits drop to 8-1. Kansas State improved to 9-0.
How Kansas State Won
Not to be specific, but Keyontae Johnson and Desi Sills. Markquis Nowell actually had a worse game than he had at TCU on Saturday, when he scored 14 points. Nowell ended up with just four points in 42 minutes as Kansas did a really good job of stifling Nowell offensively.
Johnson and Sills were another story.
Johnson finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. He was part of the reason the Wildcats built a double-digit lead in the first half. He was also a big reason why they won down the stretch.
The Wildcats’ final basket came out of a timeout in overtime. Johnson broke to the basket and took a lob pass from Nowell for a dunk with 25 seconds left to give Kansas State the lead for good.
Sills was just as critical. The first guard off the bench played like a starter, scoring a season-high 24 points in 34 minutes. He made big baskets all night, and when the game got physical he started driving to the hoop and drawing contact. Between Johnson and Sills they went 16-of-18 from the free-throw line.
Finally, one must give a shoutout to Kansas State’s defense at two critical junctures. At the end of regulation the Wildcats forced a turnover to keep Kansas from getting the ball to Jalen Wilson. On the final possession of overtime the Wildcats did the same thing. It was necessary because …
How Kansas Lost
… Wilson was on fire all night. He had a career-high 38 points and when he had the ball in his hands he didn’t shy away from big baskets. He connected from the arc three times. He went 11-of-12 from the line. He was a rebound away from a double-double. He played like he was channeling Ochai Agbaji from last year’s matchup in Manhattan. The only way he wasn’t going to determine the outcome was to keep the ball out of his hands, which Kansas State did at the end of regulation and at the end of overtime.
Kansas did rally back from a double-digit deficit in the first half, thanks to players like Wilson, KJ Adams (17 points) and Gradey Dick (16 points). But, Adams, Dick and Kevin McCullar — who didn’t score — all fouled out at some point, forcing coach Bill Self to go deeper into his bench. Kansas could have also used more offense from guard DaJuan Harris, who scored just three points (he did have 11 assists).
What cost Kansas was execution and a curious timeout that Self took with the shot clock winding down with 40 seconds left in overtime and the Jayhawks up one. A split-second after Self called time out, Wilson hit a 3-pointer that would have given the Jayhawks a four-point lead.
It cost the Jayhawks. The next possession came up empty for Kansas. Then came the Johnson dunk.
Kansas State’s Statement
This is a rivalry game, so winning it is a big deal for either team. But Kansas is the program that has the upper hand in this rivalry. Last year Kansas State blew a 17-point lead in Bramlage. Kansas had won the last seven meetings.
But the win is significant for the Wildcats and not just because of the rivalry. For Tang to win in his Sunflower State Showdown debut, to do it with a team that had just two returning players from last season and to assume a tie for first place in the Big 12 as a result?
It validates the direction that Tang is taking the program. It validates the hire athletic director Gene Taylor made. It validates the Wildcats as a true Big 12 title contender.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard