If you listened to Sports Talk Friday, January 10, during the Sports Guru segment at 4:40 where I sit in with Jake and Mark to talk about the coming weekend’s events, you would have known almost to the exact number what the score of Saturday’s KU-K-State alleged Sunflower Showdown in Lawrence would be. 86-59 I said, and the Wildcats proved to be one point better than that. KU, however, does what KU always does at Allen Fieldhouse whenever the Wildcats show up – showed them who’s boss.
The teams traded baskets until the first media time-out when Andrew Wiggins, the biggest name of the Jayhawks’ many fabulous freshmen, hit a jumper and was fouled by Marcus Foster, converted the free throw after the time-out and KU never trailed again. The Wildcats final look at KU in close proximity was at 15-12, which is when the Hawks took off on the inevitable run that put their lead into double figures and sealed K-State’s fate yet again. Even worse for the Wildcats, and maybe for the rest of the Big 12, was that KU had pretty much its second unit in the game during much of that run – Tariq Black, Jabari Traylor and Connor Frankamp each contributed baskets and coach Bill Self kept them in while the iron was hot, giving some of his other starters some rest. Wiggins came back and ended up the game’s high scorer with 22 points while Wayne Selden, another much-ballyhooed freshman who hardly showed up in the non-conference schedule but will likely be Big 12 Player or Newcomer of the Week on Monday, backed him up with 20 points. Selden hit for 24 earlier in the week against Oklahoma, by far his career high as a Jayhawk. KU’s starting big men, Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis, also came back in and ended with 12 and 11 points, respectively. They, along with Black and Traylor, provided a huge advantage in both size and inside depth against the smaller Wildcats. And the Jayhawk defense was also effective against Foster, the Wildcats’ own excellent freshman, who was held to seven points, only the third game under double figures for a guy no one had heard of entering the season.
Even without the recent string of dominating performances in the series, it seemed inevitable that Kansas would win this game. K-State, which lost its season opener at home to Northern Colorado, was looked on as perhaps being a second division Big 12 team just one year after tying Kansas for the regular season league title but had come back to put together a ten game winning streak which included victories over Mississippi (undefeated at the time) and nationally ranked Gonzaga, as well as a conference-opening win over then fifth-ranked Oklahoma State. Coach Bruce Weber has made some nice adjustments with his team and kept them playing pretty good defense – they don’t have the offensive firepower KU has, or Iowa State or Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, for that matter, and they have to play with longer possessions and tough, consistent D. Maybe it’s the ghosts of the Phog – or Roy Williams, who started this dominating stretch that now has KU winning 48 of its last 51 games over its in-state rival – but the things that make K-State a team that other Big 12 schools find tough never seem to show up in Lawrence any more. Allen Fieldhouse is a venue made for ending long winning streaks by opposing teams, and Saturday was no exception. And in this series, it may never be an exception again. Until the Wildcats do something – ANYTHING – to make a game even halfway close in this building, I don’t suspect they ever will. And I’ll keep saying so on Sports Talk for as long as I might be a part of the WIBW staff. The more things change, such as the players, K-State coaches and the fans at AFH (the same ones can’t be at every game all the time), the more they stay the same in regards to this particular game. ESPN keeps trolling for an upset in the Sunflower Showdown – it happens about once a decade or so – but even they don’t seem to learn. They would best be advised to keep their cameras in this series pointed towards Bramlage Coliseum – even though KU has been almost as dominating there when it comes to wins, the games are usually much more closely contested. And I suspect that on February 10 – a Big Monday, no less – it will be much more of a Sunflower Showdown than this game, or any game, is in Allen Fieldhouse.