Advertisement

The Day After: Surviving the Octagon

Advertisement

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University men’s basketball team — particularly its key juniors — picked up a big victory in Manhattan on Saturday, 72-63 over K-State, the first win in Bramlage Coliseum for guys like Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Brannen Greene.

After a slow and sloppy start by both teams, K-State actually was the first team to flex its muscles, backed by the wild and rockin’ environment created by the home fans.

But KU absorbed the blow, refused to let K-State get too big of a lead and then played great basketball for about 20 minutes.

That stretch allowed Kansas to build a 17-point lead and even though K-State trimmed it to three a couple of times down the stretch, KU left Manhattan feeling as if it had continued its recent run of solid basketball.

After starting Big 12 play at 5-3, with three consecutive road losses, KU now has won six straight conference games — seven in a row overall (Kentucky) — and takes a two-game lead over three teams (Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia) with four games left in Big 12 play.

The Jayhawks really have hit their stride lately and appear to be playing with more confidence than they have all season. What’s more, it’s different guys stepping up at different times to help carry this team that is right on pace to be the top seed in the Big 12 tournament and likely a No. 1 seed — perhaps the overall top seed — in the Big Dance after that.

Saturday was Mason’s turn and the junior (who became the 58th Jayhawk to reach the 1,000-point plateau) looked a lot more like his old self than he had almost at any point this season, playing fast, finishing at the rim and looking unstoppable at times.

Quick takeaway

For all the times he’s questioned, whether by the media, the fans or even the players on his own team, you sure have to give Bill Self credit for doing one thing right. And I don’t have any idea how he does it. Obviously, the guy is a terrific coach and is one of the top three-to-five college basketball coaches in the game today. So I’m not talking X’s and O’s or recruiting or consistency or any of that right now. What I’m talking about is finding a way to keep guys getting next to no playing time engaged enough to be ready to deliver when their numbers are called. Think about it. KU probably loses this game if Svi and Jamari Traylor did not do what they did. Heck, even Hunter Mickelson, who has disappeared almost completely from the rotation, played a few big minutes. And if any of the three of them had spent the past few weeks pouting and sulking over their own playing time concerns, they might not have been able to be there when this team needed them. Whatever it is that Self does to inspire that — and, don’t get me wrong, a ton of credit for this has to go to the make-up of each of those players — he should get a lot more credit for than he does. Managing a roster, more aptly said: managing egos, is one of the hardest things in all of sports. And Self is a master.

Three reasons to smile

1 – There definitely was a meltdown element to Saturday’s game that allowed K-State to trim a 17-point KU lead to three late in the second half, but that had more to do with the personnel on the floor than anything else. Without Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas for long stretches of the second half, KU actually did a pretty good job of keeping its composure and closed down the stretch when it mattered most, with both clutch free throw shooting and stellar defense. Now is a good time to make that type of effort part of the KU arsenal for the rest of the season.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) gets a reverse layup under Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. At right is Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41).

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) gets a reverse layup under Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. At right is Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41). by Nick Krug

2 – Jamari Traylor played one of his best games of the year offensively and it came because he did not hesitate to use his quickness and athleticism to his advantage. Three times Traylor caught the ball on a reversal in KU’s offense and three times the senior forward immediately drove to the right, blew by the KSU defender on him and finished at the rim. The third one was capped off by one of the top KU dunks of the year and put an exclamation point on KU’s latest road win. Traylor finished 3-of-4 shooting for six points and added three rebounds, a block and an assist in 17 important minutes.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets up for a bucket over Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets up for a bucket over Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. by Nick Krug

3 – KSU coach Bruce Weber said it better than I could, so I’ll just let him take it from here on a day when KU got to the free throw line 30 times and outscored K-State 32-26 in the paint: “We just didn’t play strong in the first half, especially down the stretch,” Weber said. “They get in the paint, they get to the free throw line. We get into the paint and we don’t get to the free throw line and we don’t finish. That’s the difference.”

Three reasons to sigh

1 – KU’s free throw shooting, particularly in the first half, was atrocious. That’s obviously nothing new for this team, which has struggled most of the season from the line, especially in one-and-one situations, but it’s not what you want to see at this point in the season if you’re a KU fan or the Kansas coaches. With the whistles going KU’s way in the first 20 minutes, KU failed to capitalize fully and could have led by much more than 10 heading into the locker room. Four different Jayhawks missed at least two free throws in this one and only Devonte’ Graham (who was 1-of-6 from the field) made all of the free throws he attempted, going 4-of-4 down the stretch. Overall, KU shot 18-for-30 from the free throw line for 60 percent.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three before Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three before Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. by Nick Krug

2 – The solid night by Svi had a lot to do with it, but Brannen Greene, whose minutes have been way up lately, still got the first crack in the hostile environment and just wasn’t ready. Given the progression that Greene had shown in his game of late, the 0-for-1 showing in just five minutes has to be pegged a little disappointing. But it’s possible that the circumstances — at KSU with the entire focus of the home crowd on making Greene’s day miserable — had something to do with it. He gets a pass for now and will look to get back on track Tuesday at Baylor. Make no mistake about it: This team needs Greene to be playing well — but not necessarily a lot — if it hopes to make some noise in March.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) stuffs a pass from Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) stuffs a pass from Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. by Nick Krug

3 – There was nothing terribly wrong with Carlton Bragg’s line — 2 points, 3 rebounds, a steal and 2 turnovers in 12 minutes — but if you watched him play closely you can see that he appears to be struggling with his confidence. A lot of second-guessing, of himself and others, and a little more tentative play than we saw from him earlier this season. I know he’s not getting consistent minutes (like Cheick Diallo) but you’d like to see him a little more comfortable out there with the minutes he is getting. Like Greene, Bragg also gets a pass here, because he was put in a tough spot and asked to handle the load in the post — a tough ask defensively — with Landen Lucas in foul trouble and Perry Ellis in the locker room.

One for the road

KU’s first win at Bramlage Coliseum since the 2012-13 season...

• Made Kansas 23-4 overall and 11-3 in Big 12 play.

• Extended KU's winning streak to seven games.

• Gave Kansas 11 conference wins for the 22nd-straight season, which began during the 1994-95 season in the Big Eight era.

• Made Self 26-5 all-time versus Kansas State (25-5 while at Kansas).

• Made KU 2,176-835 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will head south to play their second-to-last conference road game of the season at 7 p.m. Tuesday at No. 25 Baylor on ESPN2. The suddenly red-hot Bears enter Tuesday’s game on the heels of back-to-back victories at home against No. 13 Iowa State and on the road at No. 24 Texas.

— See what people were saying about KU's rematch with rival Kansas State during KUsports.com's live coverage


More news and notes from the Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan




By the Numbers: Kansas 72, Kansas State 63

By the Numbers: Kansas 72, Kansas State 63

Comments

Humpy Helsel 3 years ago

It could probably be said each year about all of KU men"s basketball teams. But this team is becoming increasingly fascinating by the day. Who on what night? As you say, it changes from game to game. That is a good thing and it can be a bad thing. You get the sense this team has finally accepted their success rests on defense and rebounding. You have to be able to string stops together and hope you convert on the other end enough times to offset our notorious cold spells. While different in many ways, Devonte's game and role reminds me more and more of Mario Chalmers every day. The next four games will be telling. Any or all of the four could become losses. It's ours to win or lose now. Couldn't agree with you more on your Quick Takeaway. Be ready when your number is called because we are going to need you.

Rodney Pain 3 years ago

Really hope Perry's eye is ok. Even if it's just scratched, that could still really mess up his game. I've had it happens. It feels like you've got sand in the eye that you just can't get out. Otherwise, it's been a really great bounce back. Way to tame the Mildcats.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years ago

My biggest worry is a loss in the Final Four similar to that of 2003. Loosing the game at the FT line. This problem transcends coaches it seems at KU.

Pius Waldman 3 years ago

Great report Tait. Appreciate your smiling photo makes me feel better when I see it. I've been a long time fan and this team just amazes me. One would think certain players would be the leaders and others would be helpers. I remember the Korea games and wow looks like Mickelson would lead the way this season. Greene with his operation and (games not available) certainly has his ups and downs. I often say if you play with energy you have to show results. Traylor is noted for playing with energy and sometimes questionable results. The last 4 conference games won't be easy as all are Big Dance teams we will play. Losing at Oklahoma State hard to accept but winning at OU a bonus win. Self decides who will play and how much time so no need for me to tell him how to coach the team.I just have a gut feeling(don't know why) we might celebrate like the team coming back from Korea. Rock Chalk

Bill Kackley 3 years ago

Matt, a question. Do you know or can you find out the last time a KU crowd stormed the court in Lawrence?

Dirk Medema 3 years ago

It's been at least 20 if not 30 years. I recall it being a point of discussion around that time, though I don't recall it actually happening.

Bill Kackley 3 years ago

Got the answer to my question. 1968, when we beat Mizzou, 112-76 in Allen. Don't believe any other school has gone longer without a court storming, at least not Duke, Indiana, Michigan State, UCLA, Louisville, North Carolina or Kentucky.

Suzi Marshall 3 years ago

December 3, 1973 we beat KY 71-63 for the first time. The game was played in AFH and was in Joe B. Hall's first year as HC. Roger Morningstar, a juice transfer from Dundee, IL, went for 20. Kansas fans stormed the court. I was a student at the time, attended the game, and was a court stormer.

Kent Richardson 3 years ago

We have so many shooters. Wayne, DeVonte, Frank, Perry, Freebird (3Bird?) and the Ukranian Hammer. The last two are key in that they come off the bench to keep it going or to add instant offense when needed. We got a glimpse of how a complete Svi looks and it is really good.

Landen and Jamari are making my "why did you pass it to them" into a "that was pretty nice."

A concern is how will Cheick, Carlton and Hunter play? Of course it's will Hunter play and will Cheick and Carlton's good plays out number their bad. No real confidence in any of these scenarios.

Perry's eye will evidently be better sooner than later and how soon may have an impact on seeding.

We can win with our improving defense and light it up on offense. If one is down the other has to pick it up.

I still have not seen the attitude of "we will not let you back into this game." And along with that the dominating of a good opponent.

We are still two steps below a final four contender. One is can we play a complete game from start to finish? The second is can our bench be more consistent and reliable when the going gets tough?

Now are we going to get great play from our big 6'7" and 6'8" guards? Who is going to be first off the bench? Brannen or Svi?

Len Shaffer 3 years ago

I like the name the "Ukrainian Hammer." Maybe we can have Brent Musberger call him that, since it's apparently impossible for Brent to learn how to pronounce Svi's name correctly.

Max Kandinsky 3 years ago

Based on how Weber acts on the sidelines, why do I suspect his comment about the teams ability to get to the foul line was actually a backdoor slam on the refs?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.