Head Coach Bill Self's Jayhawks showed that no matter who's on the roster Kansas is not going to let its Big 12 crown be wrestled from its grasp easily. In fact, the Jayhawks landed a 67-49 haymaker that Kansas State Head Coach Frank Martin was still reeling over during his postgame stop at the podium.
"They got 24 more possessions than us," Martin lamented. "I have never in 27 years, including coaching 13-year-olds, been part of a game where our team got its tail whipped in the physical part of the game the way we did today. It was a complete mismatch."
And the stats showed it.
Some of the numbers were staggering including a final rebounding total of 50-26. Those are numbers K-State is usually delivering against an opponent.
"The most important statistic is what we did on the glass," Self stated. "I thought our guys were as good as we have been in a long time on the glass."
"Coming into the game, we had our mind set on trying to control the glass and we came out and did it," said Travis Releford who posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
"Rebounds, to me, are discipline and effort," said the fiery Martin. "When you are not willing to lay your body into somebody, that's not very good. We take a lot of pride in doing that, we obviously didn't do it today and we got what we deserve for it."
Rebounding usually tells you who the aggressor this and it was Kansas from the opening tip as Self said, his team was "turned up". It started with the emotion and the fire of All-American candidate Thomas Robinson, who at times look unguardable in this one. TRob finished with 15 points, and 14 rebounds and had his motor running for the game's entirety.
But it wasn't just Robinson. Tyshawn Taylor got to the paint at will and Travis Releford set the tone by making the plays that don't always show up on the stat sheet.
"Nobody can fault the way he set the tone in the game, getting on the floor a couple of times. He did a great job of guarding [Rodney] McGruder in the first half. I thought Travis was really good," Self said.
"Coming into the game, coach had me guarding (KSU's) Rodney (McGruder). In the past, he has been out-rebounding us on offense and defense," said the junior Releford. ""We just got after it and tried to make sure he didn't get any rebounds on offense or defense."
Releford's effort did not go unnoticed from opposing coach Frank Martin and it's now becoming a pretty regular occurrence for the opposing coach to notice Travis. Watching Releford's maturation and Robinson growing into one of the premiere players in the country are definitely two of the more
Kansas was not without fault in this one. Though the Jayhawks led 35-20 at the half they still had 10 turnovers or that lead would've been more. They did allow a large lead to whittle down to three in the second half. But what might've been even more impressive than its opening run in the game? The answer KU had when its neighboring rival pulled within striking distance.
Conner Teahan gave K-State three reasons, well maybe six reasons, why KU wouldn't lose this game with two clutch three-pointers from the corner that Self called the "biggest shots of the game".
"When it was 42-38, we lose Conner Teahan on back-to-back possessions. Credit Teahan, he made the shots," Martin continued. "He could have missed them. That is a breakdown on us; the scouting report says, `do not leave Conner Teahan when he is in the corner,' and we left him twice and he made both shots."
"The biggest deal in the game was we were playing awful. We picked about five minutes to play just brutally bad early in the second half and Conner [Teahan] bailed us out. He made two shots that got it back to nine really quick, and the next thing you know it's 11. They had worked so hard to cut it from 15 to three and all of a sudden it is right back where we started just in the span of a minute or two," Self said.
"That was huge. They almost tied it. He came into the game and that was huge for us. It helped us get a more comfortable lead and we pulled away from there," said Taylor.
Kansas also again had issues with turnovers posting 20 for them game and 8 of them coming from Taylor who Self says still makes some "bonehead plays".
"There were some good things that happened, but how many of our turnovers were not forced by them," Self asked rhetorically. "We just threw the ball out of bounds or threw it to a guy and not have him catch it. We can tighten that up, that is something that we can improve on."
Unforced turnovers can be fixed but if they aren't they are a recipe for disaster in conference play especially on the road.
It does appear as if the Jayhawks are on the right track thanks to more focus, more inspired practices and building confidence. Self felt like practices would get a boost with Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore now allowed to participate, and they have. Kansas has practiced well and it translated on Wednesday especially on the defensive end during the first half when KSU shot a miserable 27.6 percent.
"One thing we did the whole night is we really defended," said Self. "We really guarded their stuff well the first half. That was about as good as we defended a top-25 team in a long time. They missed some shots, but they didn't get a lot of good looks."
Kansas knows that winning conference titles happen when you sustain at home and win on the road and the first conference road test is ahead Saturday at Oklahoma. If the Jayhawks can take that kind of energy on the road they'll be on the way to another conference title.