Of course it's the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story
It got a bit shaky in the second half, but when the dust settled Kansas had won by yet another comfortably large margin over their I-70 opponents. Kansas has now won 43 of the last 46 meetings in the series, and it puts Kansas State in the position of possibly starting 0-3 in conference play (though I expect them to be favored against Baylor).
I had predicted that this game would be a rock fight, and boy was it: Kansas struggled to score 1.05 points per possession, relying a lot on second chance points, and Kansas State scored only .77 points per trip. The Wildcats don't exactly light it up offensively, but put up just a 36% eFG, which is an absolute disaster no matter where you go, much less Allen Fieldhouse. But what really got Frank Martin was the rebounding: K State really relies on crashing the boards, grabbing 40.6% of their misses, which ranks 9th in the country. I think they probably tried to get back on defense and slow the game up a bit, but they still only grabbed 27.9% of their misses. Even more impressive is that Kansas, who isn't a great offensive rebounding team, pulled down 57.6% of their misses. (though to be fair Kansas State is actually a horrible defensive rebounding team, currently ranking 235th. So take those numbers with a block of salt.)
Speaking of offense, let's all spend a moment giving thanks to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that Kansas grabbed so many offensive rebounds. They had a 50% eFG, but turned it over on 31.2% of their possessions. And that was with Kansas State, who normally pressures the perimeter a ton, having to play off a bit because a player of the year candidate mans the post for Kansas. Without that, it could have gotten ugly.
Kansas now has three games that should be (crosses fingers) wins before hosting Baylor on January 16th in a game that could be an early swing game in the Big 12 title race.
Thomas Robinson had a great game (more on him later) but the best player on the floor in my opinion was Travis Releford. Releford had 16 points, shooting 4-7 from two, 2-4 from three and 2-2 from the line. He also had a career high 11 rebounds. He also played stellar defense on Rodney McGruder, who needed 14 shots to score his 15 points. I said the Releford-McGruder matchup would be the key to the game and boy was it.
At this point I'm just going to stop being surprised by Robinson. "Only" 15 points, but they all came within the flow of the offense, and he grabbed 14 rebounds (20% offensive rebounding rate, not bad.). I do find it a bit odd, however, that he only went to the line twice given how much Kansas State fouls. I'd have to re-watch to determine whether it was due to Kansas not getting him the ball in good spots, him not being agressive, or refs not calling fouls, so that will stay a mystery.
Conner Teahan had only 6 points, but they both came on huge momentum shifting threes in the second half after Kansas State had cut it to three. I'm skeptical as to how much momentum in and of itself helps to win games, but there's no doubt that Kansas was in a major funk offensively and they needed points, and Teahan gave them 6 big ones.
I sense that the guard duties are shifting a bit: Tyshawn Taylor has become much more of a scorer this year, taking 13 shots last night, and Elijah Johnson is shifting to more of a facilitator role. Johnson had 5 assists on the night and while he had a poor game offensively he managed to grab 8 (!) rebounds and have 3 steals. As for Tyshawn, he made a couple plays, especially the drive late in the half, that just made me laugh at how good they were, and then some that made me laugh for opposite reasons. One of the reasons I like us vs. both Baylor and Missouri is Tyshawn should be able to get into the lane at will and make things happen, now we just have to hope they're good things.
Man I love Jeff Withey. 8 points, shooting 3-4 from the floor and making both his free throws (quick aside: he needs to be on the floor late in games both for his defense and the fact that he quietly is the best free throw shooter on the team) and he pitched in 9 rebounds and, oh yeah, 6 blocks. He only played 24 minutes, which I think has a lot to do with him not being strong enough (or able to stay out of trouble) to handle playing more minutes, but I am beyond excited to see him next year when he presumably gets stronger and Kansas has more big men so they can use his minutes more efficiently.
Naadir Tharpe checked in at the 13:41 mark of the first half (and checked out for good at the 3:34 mark after a hilariously bad shot). Tharpe didn't check in until the 12:17 mark of the first half against North Dakota, meaning that Bill Self of course considers the Sioux to be better than the Wildcats. Can't say I disagree.
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