Manhattan Nigel Johnson couldn’t be stopped. He nailed three-pointers all night. He blew past his man on the way to buckets at the hoop. He competed so hard and so well that he, as much as the wildly passionate students, infused the rest of the team with energy and confidence. And he did it all the night after taking his mother out for a birthday dinner.
The Wildcats didn’t take off a possession defensively and fed off the crowd. They played together, put their petty differences with each other behind them, focused on living in the moment, and what a moment it was for them.
For K-State, it was a beautiful victory against favored in-state rival Kansas, 70-63.
Images from Monday night's game between the Jayhawks and Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self discusses the Sunflower Showdown & K-State's court-storming following Monday's 70-63 loss in Manhattan.
Perry Ellis & Kelly Oubre shed light on what went wrong vs. K-State.
And then the students, taking advantage of lax security, stormed the court. In a blink, the scene of highly entertaining basketball theater grew ugly, unnecessarily dangerous.
A student who stormed the court zeroed in on Kansas junior Jamari Traylor and shoulder-checked him, delivering an up-and-in blow. Traylor had enough discipline not to retaliate.
At one point, as the crowd pressed in on the two coaches during their post-game handshake, Kansas coach Bill Self stumbled before catching his balance. K-State coach Bruce Weber positioned himself behind Self, spread his arms wide, trying to form a one-man security force.
“I tried to protect Bill best I could. Finally, I said the heck with it and started pushing people out of the way, which is sad,” Weber said. “Enjoy it, make the most of it, but also respect your opponent and make sure they get off the court safely.”
That’s a lot to ask of frenzied students. It’s not on them to make sure players get off the court safely. It’s on security and there wasn’t enough of it, or at the very least there wasn’t a good plan in place.
“Sometimes it’s hard,” Weber said. “Last year, I was walking out and that dude came right over the scorer’s table and jumped on me. ... You just don’t want anyone to get hurt. I’m glad no one got hurt and they got out of there without anybody getting hurt.”
Afterward, Self was gracious in defeat, lauding K-State by saying they played, “superbly.” At the same time, he was hot about the lack of security.
“I wasn’t nervous for me,” Self said. “There were several students who hit our players, not saying with fists, but you storm the court, you run in, you bump everybody, stuff like that. This has got to stop.”
Yes, it does.
“I think court-storming’s fine, but surely you can get security to the point where a player’s safety’s not involved, like it is over here,” Self said. “The last several times that they’ve won, they’ve stormed the court on us. That’s disappointing that it happened again, but we also allowed it to happen.”
Allowing it to happen is beside the point of it needing to stop.
“It’s a ballgame, it’s not about chicken-winging somebody when the game’s over,” Self said. “That’s not what it’s about. Hopefully, they can get that corrected. It’s fine if you want to celebrate us when you beat us. That’s your business. That’s fine. But at least it shouldn’t put anybody at risk from a safety standpoint because we’re asking for big problems because somebody’s going to hit a player and the player’s going to retaliate and you’re going to have lawsuits and cases. It’s just not right. There’s no place for it to be unsafe. If you’re going to do it, at least do it around center court. Don’t do it at the other bench.”
The problem with attempting to modify it is that it will just revert to lax security in time. For example, when ripping field-goal posts down became the thing to do in Lawrence after the football team scored upsets, Kansas figured out a way to put a stop to it. Then this past season, after defeating an Iowa State team that went winless in the Big 12, the students stormed the field.
It’s time to make court-storming and field-storming a thing of the past.
Not that it should ever come to it, but Kansas brings such a large chunk of its 200-plus-employees athletic department to games that it would be better prepared than any other university in the nation. Even at that, four members of the athletic department were seated courtside, three rows ahead of the media outlet that covers them most thoroughly — in seats on “press” row that back when athletic departments used to respect the First Amendment of the constitution, which guaranteed a free press and discouraged propaganda — so they were out of position to form a wall against the stampede.
“I apologized to Bill and his staff and to their administration,” Weber said. “It’s a cool thing to be a part of, but you also have to make sure nobody gets hurt. I’ve had some pretty good teams through the years and I’ve had it happen to me where they rushed the court and I got bopped and hit and it’s no fun, especially when you lose.”
As Self said, it has to stop. But he didn’t go far enough. It has to stop everywhere, not just at K-State.
Update, 9:43 a.m.