The Kansas Jayhawks were looking to turn things around following a rough run of play in January that saw them end the month losing five of their last eight. Their opponent was Kansas State, a in-state rival who happens to be far and away the worst team in the conference, so this game was an opportunity to really make a statement and get the team feeling good about themselves. Though it wasn’t dominance from start to finish, the Jayhawks at the very least showed that they’re still capable of going out and crushing an inferior opponent in a 74-51 victory.
KU has developed a habit of falling behind early in games, and while that did not occur in this one, they didn’t exactly come out scorching hot, either. In the first ten minutes they were shooting 40% from the floor and led 18-8 by virtue of good defense and a bad opponent (KSU was 4-12, just 33% in the same span). Still, 18 points in ten minutes against KenPom’s 203rd ranked defense isn’t exactly dominance. By the under-8 this was still just a 20-12 lead that just felt like a battle between two listless teams, with one just obviously more talented than the other. The Jayhawks just basically kept KSU at bay through the remainder of the half.
At the break it was a 33-25 advantage for KU despite going 13-32 (41%) from the field. They were 3-10 from three, and a concerning 10-22 (45%) from two against a team allows a high percentage of makes. Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack both reached double digits in the half with ten apiece on 60% shooting, while Christian Braun contributed 9 despite going 1-4 from three. On the other end of the court though, Kansas was doing what they should do against this level of opponent, holding the Wildcats to just 9-23 (39%) from the floor.
A 5-0 run to start the second half would push the lead to double digits, and by the first media timeout it was a 43-29 lead. The next minutes would be where the Jayhawks fully took control. By the under-12 it was 50-31 and Braun found himself up to 15 after hitting a pair of threes. From there, the Jayhawks would keep their foot on the gas, leading this game by as many as 26 down the stretch, ultimately winning by 23.
The defense kept K-State on lockdown throughout the game, allowing them to hit just 18 of 53 attempts (34%) while hitting just 24% of their threes, hopefully bringing to a permanent end the run of insane luck Kansas opponents have had from behind the arc in recent weeks. KU’s offense never did dazzle from an efficiency perspective though, shooting just 43% from the field and 31% from three, which means that shooting is still a concern moving forward despite the blowout win.
Braun would end up tying McCormack for the game high at 18 points. Mac registered a rare double-double by also reeling in ten boards, while Braun finished a respectable 4-9 from three. Agbaji finished with 15 while Jalen Wilson also joined the double digit club at 10.
Hopefully this gives the Jayhawks an emotional boost, because things get tougher from here. Their next matchup is on the road against 17th ranked West Virginia, followed by a Big Monday matchup with an OSU team who has already beat them once this year.
KU now sits at 12-6 overall with a 6-4 record in conference.