Looking to 'get (its) pride back,' KU basketball thumps K-State 74-51
LAWRENCE — What a difference a new month made for Kansas basketball.
The Jayhawks’ in-state rival, on the other hand? Not so much.
KU earned a 74-51 victory over Kansas State on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse, racing out to a 9-0 lead and never trailing at any point in the season’s first installment of the Sunflower Showdown. Sophomore guard Christian Braun notched a team high-tying 18 points in the win, hitting three 3s in a decisive 18-3 second-half run that turned a nine-point Jayhawk lead into a 24-point rout with 10 minutes remaining.
The outcome was of the bounce-back variety for the No. 23-ranked Jayhawks (12-6, 6-4 Big 12), who rebounded from a stretch of four defeats in their previous five contests. The Wildcats, meanwhile, dropped their ninth straight decision.
“Always feels good to beat K-State,” said Braun, who had 20 points with six made 3s in last year’s 81-60 brawl-marred home victory over K-State. “This was a little different this year, trying to get things turned around, get on the right track, so it feels good just to get a win. We’ve got to put our foot down earlier, but it feels good to get back in the win column, and we’ve got to win from there.”
Braun and his Jayhawk brethren certainly put their collective foot down after halftime.
Davion Bradford's fast-break dunk trimmed the Wildcats' deficit to single digits, 38-29, with 16:16 left in the contest. But that proved the final bucket ahead of the visitors' six-plus-minute field goal drought, a time span that also saw the Jayhawks reel off the 18-3 rally.
David McCormack kick-started the lopsided stretch with a dunk of his own, and Braun followed with a trey — the Burlington native was 4 for 9 from distance in the contest. K-State's Selton Miguel hit two free throws, but it was again Braun connecting on an answer 3, then Ochai Agbaji dunking and Mitch Lightfoot hitting two at the line to push the run to 12-2.
Antonio Gordon tried to stop the bleeding with a free-throw conversion, but back-to-back 3s by Jalen Wilson and Braun capped the scoring frenzy and delivered a 56-32 lead with 10:08 remaining.
Braun said he and his teammates “absolutely” focused on the right things in Tuesday's tilt, the Jayhawks’ first since an 80-61 defeat Saturday at then-No. 18 Tennessee that closed KU's record in January contests at 3-5.
“At this point we’ve got no choice: We’ve got to buy in; we’ve got to listen to Coach (Bill Self),” said Braun, who also threw down a fast-break dunk in his team's 9-0 start versus the Wildcats. “He’s telling us to play hard, play free. We all want to win and we all want to be on the right track, so I think we’ve got the right mindset, we’ve got a lot of guys starting to buy in. We can see it in practice. We just want to see it translate into the game and get on a roll going into the tournament.”
McCormack also scored 18 points and hauled in 10 rebounds for a double-double. The junior forward had just two rebounds in the loss to the Volunteers.
“(We’re) in the growing process,” McCormack said. “Throughout this entire season we’ve continued to grow, to build, to gel. Right now February is the month where we really capitalize on the growing and do what Coach asks as far as competing and having the right mentality.”
Agbaji finished with 15 points and Wilson had 10 to round out the double-figure scorers for KU, which walloped K-State in both rebounds (41-34) and points in the paint (38-18).
“I thought defensively we tried hard for the most part. I thought we rebounded the ball OK. Bench played pretty solid. Yeah, it (a) was much better (performance),” Self said. “And we still didn’t make shots, but it was certainly much better.”
Nijel Pack and Mike McGuirl both scored 10 points to lead the Wildcats (5-14, 1-9), who shot just 34% from the floor.
“I actually am leaving happier. I thought we did some good things and I don’t think the good things that we did really translated to points all the time, but I thought we guarded pretty hard," Self said. "(But) how many times did K-State score with under five seconds left on the shot clock again? Those are the things that we’ve harped on that good teams are able to get stops in those situations, and we did better but we didn’t do it consistently. So a lot of things that we can still harp on that we’ll continue to harp on, but I’m believing that we got better tonight.”
KU will face much stiffer competition in its next contest, a 1 p.m. Saturday matchup against No. 17 West Virginia at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.
“We’re just working hard, trying to get back to where we were,” Braun said. “A couple of months ago, what was it, a month ago, we were for sure a top-five team in the country. We’re just trying to get back to what we know we are and what we know we can be. We’re trying to play for what’s across our chest, get our pride back, show we’re competing. We’re in a good spot with our attitudes and I think we’re definitely progressing, going the right direction.”
NO. 23 KANSAS 74, KANSAS STATE 51
Kansas State (5-14, 1-9 Big 12)
McGuirl 3-10 3-5 10, Miguel 3-8 2-3 9, Gordon 2-6 3-4 7, Bradford 3-5 2-2 9, Pack 4-10 0-0 10, Ezeagu 0-5 0-0 0, Lewis 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 2-4 0-0 4, Linguard 0-1 0-0 0, Kasubke 0-1 0-0 0, Petrakis 1-2 0-0 3. Total 18-53 10-14 51.
Kansas (12-6, 6-4 Big 12)
Garrett 1-5 0-0 2, Braun 6-11 2-2 18, Wilson 3-13 2-3 10, Agbaji 6-10 1-1 15, McCormack 9-14 0-0 18, Grant-Foster 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-2 0-0 0, Jossell 0-1 0-0 0, Teahan 1-1 0-0 3, Enaruna 2-5 0-0 4, Lightfoot 1-5 2-2 4. Totals 29-67 7-8 74.
Half — Kansas 33-25. 3-point goal — K-State 5-21 (Pack 2-5, Petrakis 1-1, Miguel 1-5, McGuirl 1-6, Linguard 0-1, Williams 0-1, Gordon 0-2), Kansas 9-29 (Braun 4-9, Agbaji 2-5, Wilson 2-6, Teahan 1-1, Lightfoot 0-1, Jossell 0-1, Enaruna 0-2, Garrett 0-4). Rebounds — K-State 34 (Gordon 8), Kansas 41 (McCormack 10). Assists — K-State 9 (Pack 3), Kansas 17 (Garrett 5, Harris 5). Turnovers — K-State 13 (Pack 4), Kansas 6 (Garrett 3). Blocks — K-State 1 (Bradford), Kansas 2 (Enaruna, Lightfoot). Steals — K-State 1 (Pack), Kansas 6 (McCormack 2). Total fouls — K-State 13, Kansas 14. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Officials — Maxwell, Pollard, Padilla. Attendance — 2,500.