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KU Escapes With Tough Win in Manhattan

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

This team is bad for my blood pressure.

Kansas looked bad out of the gate in Manhattan against a weirdly hot Kansas State team. Some of that was on KU, like turning it over eight times in the first 18 minutes while only forcing two. Some was just a hot start at home for the Wildcats, who made 14 of their first 18 shots. KU, for most of the game, didn't seem to handle the pressure that comes from an early road deficit very well. The Jayhawks seemed shellshocked at times as an offensively-challenged K-State squad just destroyed KU on that end through the first half.

The halftime numbers favored K-State in just about every way. The Wildcats were up by a ridiculous 50-34 margin at the break, hitting half their threes, winning the turnover battle 8-2, and holding Kansas to making just 40% of their shots, and just 33% from outside.

Nijel Pack, a breakout star for KSU (and their leading scorer), led all players with a whopping 22 first half points, shooting 6-8 from deep (again, in just a single half). For Kansas, Ochai Agbaji had scored a respectable baker's dozen, but was an uncharacteristic 1-5 from outside with three turnovers. As a team, K-State was shooting 59% from the floor while Kansas was shooting just 40%. There was no doubt that KSU's shooting numbers would come back down to earth, but one still had to wonder if that would be enough or if it happen quickly enough to get KU back into the game.

Kansas didn't exactly come out of the locker room and dominate the early portion of the second half, but they certainly looked better. Though K-State would reach a game high 17-point lead at two different times early in the second half, they were also starting to actually miss some shots. At the first media timeout of the second half, the lead was down to single digits with a 55-47 KSU advantage. Agbaji was, of course, instrumental during this stretch, with Jalen Wilson also coming up with a couple of much needed baskets.

Both teams hit a bit of an offensive slump at that point, but a three point play pushed things back into double digits at 60-49. Both teams remained a bit stagnant offensively, and the K-State lead kept hanging around 8 to 10 points. Kansas once again started to see the ball go through the hoop, cutting the lead to four with just over eight minutes remaining, but KSU responded quickly.

Then, Kansas had a possession in which they grabbed two offensive boards after a missed Remy Martin three, but both led to more ugly threes (another of which was fired by Martin). It was really starting to feel like it just wasn't KU's day. At the under-8, the Jayhawks were still down, 65-61.

Afterward, Kansas briefly made it a one possession game, but the Wildcats once again responded quickly to make it a five point game. The frustration continued from there as KU just couldn't find a way to even things up, no matter how many times they got close. At the final media timeout, the writing appeared to be on the wall, with K-State up 75-69 and Kansas showing no ability to put together good possessions on both sides of the court when things got tense.

But, of course, you don't just write off a Bill Self coached team in the final minutes. Having a player like future All-American Ochai Agbaji helps too. With K-State up 75-70 and 1:39 remaining, McCormack calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to make it a three point game. A missed three on the other end was rebounded by McCormack, and Agbaji drew a foul, hitting both free throws to make it a one point game with just under a minute left.

Christian Braun then came up with a huge block, followed by Agbaji nailing a two point jumper to put KU on top. Another missed three forced KSU to foul Agbaji again, and his two free throws made it a three point game. The Wildcats appeared to have just 0.6 seconds left, but the officials reset the clock to 1.1 seconds. However, K-State wasn't able to get it done, and the Jayhawks escaped Manhattan with a 78-75 victory.

KU relinquished an early lead with just over 16 minutes to go in the first half, and didn’t get back on top until Agbaji's shot with just seven seconds remaining.

The player of the game has to be Agbaji. The senior star put up 29, with seven boards and a pair of blocks. Wilson continued his trend of improving play, with a double-double as he scored 16 while pulling down ten boards. McCormack didn't have the prettiest performance, but his double-double (11 points and 15 boards) was also noteworthy.

Kansas improves to 16-2 overall, and 5-1 in conference play. That one league loss came against Texas Tech, and KU will have a chance to exact their revenge coming up next, as they host the Red Raiders in just 48 hours on Monday.

It wasn't pretty, but in this conference (and especially on the road) it doesn't need to be. The Jayhawks won another Sunflower Showdown in the Wildcats' own building. Again. Enjoy basking in this win for the night, fans, because Monday will be an even tougher matchup.