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K-State Capitalizes on Kansas’ Kryptonite, Hands Jayhawks First Conference Loss

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Michigan State

The Kansas State Wildcats upset the Kansas Jayhawks 83-82 on Tuesday night in Manhattan, Kansas. It was a huge win for the Wildcats who were looking to solidify themselves as a Top 15 team and Big 12 title contender. For the Jayhawks, they are hoping it is just a bump in the road on the way to another Big 12 title run and their quest for their program’s first-ever back-to-back National Championships.

Throughout the first part of the Big 12 schedule, Kansas has played with fire, playing a handful of close games. On the season, heading into the Sunflower Showdown rivalry game, the Jayhawks were 9-0 in one-possession games. On Tuesday night, they couldn’t get it done.

 

After a slow start, something the Jayhawks have dealt with many times this season, Kansas tried to get back into the game before halftime. At one point, Kansas State led 33-19 in the first half. Kansas did cut the Wildcat lead to 44-39 at halftime.

The second half was a back-and-forth battle, but Kansas State figured out the Jayhawks’ kryptonite: foul trouble. During KU’s first loss of the season, DeJuan Harris missed a majority of the second half in foul trouble. Against the Wildcats, Kansas had Kevin McCullar Jr. and KJ Adams in foul trouble early in the second half. Both players ultimately would foul out of the game and not be eligible to play during overtime.

McCullar was having an awful game, he was 0-2 from the field and 0-2 from the free throw line. He did have seven rebounds but to the point in the game in which he fouled out, he was a net negative. McCullar has had some up-and-down games as a Jayhawk but he usually hits a big shot or gives the team a spark on defense down the stretch of a game. That was missing against Kansas State down the stretch of regulation and then into overtime.

 

The loss of Adams was a noticeable difference. Zach Clemence and Zuby Ejiofer both had critical turnovers late in the game that led to Kansas State points. Ejiofer was also called upon to shoot free throws when Harris was fouled and took a hard fall and needed to leave the game to be evaluated when Adams was on the bench with four fouls earlier in the second half. He only made one of the two free throws, a small difference in the game, but one that matters in such a close game.

Adams has turned into a key piece to this Kansas roster, and the Jayhawks will need more from their bench players going forward, especially if Adams gets into foul trouble. Mixing those guys in more during the first half and middle part of the game could help them get ready when they are called upon in critical situations.

Gradey Dick, who was a bit off in his shooting game going 1-8 from three-point range and 4-13 from the field, fouled out early in overtime. Dick played a great game on defense, coming up with four steals and two blocked shots to go along with seven rebounds. He was also 7-8 from the free-throw line. The Jayhawks were missing Dick in the final minutes of the game.

 

Defensively, Dick plays long and has the ability to cover multiple spots. Offensively, Dick gives the Jayhawks an immediate threat to penetrate from any position on the court and has that sharpshooter mentality that can frustrate opponents. The Wildcats caught a break when he picked up his fifth foul with over 3 minutes to play in overtime.

DeJuan Harris never got into foul trouble, but did miss time due to a hard fall on a layup attempt midway through the second half but played the majority of the game. Jalen Wilson tried his best to lead the Jayhawks to a win, playing 45 minutes and scoring a career-high 38 points.

In a rare in-game occurrence, Kansas head coach Bill Self may have made the biggest mistake of the night late in overtime. With time running out on the shot clock, Self ran to the official for a timeout instead of letting Wilson run the offense. Unfortunately for Self, Wilson, and Jayhawk nation, the timeout cost Wilson a three-pointer that went in right after the referee granted the timeout to Self. That three-pointer would have given Kansas an 85-81 lead with less than 45 seconds left in the game and would have put Wilson over the 40-point threshold. It also would have more than likely secured the win for the Jayhawks.

Kansas didn’t get another good look the rest of the game while Kansas State scored one more basket to give the Wildcats the 83-82 win. Now Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State are all tied atop the Big 12 conference standings. Foul trouble may end up being the kryptonite for Kansas with a less-than-deep bench, but they’ve navigated the waters safely until the loss to Kansas State and nearly won in the process. What we do know is no one is running away with the crown this year and things are just heating up in Big 12 hoops.

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