After trailing KSU 3-0 out of the gate, KU went on a 20-5 run and never looked back. While KSU chipped away at the KU lead several times – including making it a 60-57 game with 6:08 left in the contest – KU always had an answer
With starting guard Keith Langford at Lawrence Memorial Hospital with a stomach ailment head coach Bill Self called “the kind of flu no one wants to get,” Wayne Simien ripped up the Wildcats for the second time in as many weeks, scoring 28 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
And Friday night, the Kansas backcourt held up their end of the bargain, too.
- Aaron Miles continued to be the best bad shooter in America, pouring in 18 points on 5 of 9 shooting – 4 of 6 from behind the arc.
- Meanwhile, J.R. Giddens added 14 points, including two key second-half three pointers that effectively answered KSU runs.
- Jeff Hawkins hit two first-half three-pointers and scored 8 on the night.
- And in the surprising performance of the night, Langford replacement Michael Lee pulled down 11 rebounds. No, that is not a typo.
“Mike Lee was terrific on the boards,” Simien said after the game.
“(Lee) did the intangibles. He was great,” added Miles. “Even though he didn’t make shots, he did other things. Just because you don’t make shots doesn’t mean you didn’t play well, and Mike showed that.”
Despite not scoring a field goal (Lee had 6 points on 6 of 6 free-throw shooting), Self was very pleased with the contributions of the senior reserve pressed into a starting position.
“Mike is one of those guys that, he can play. When he’s good, he’s really good. But he’d be the first to tell you that he’s been way too inconsistent. He has some big games, and then he has some games where he’s not a factor. With Keith out, he’s got to be a factor,” Self said.
Self added, “(Lee) found a way to impact the game today without even making a shot. That’s a sign of a good player. We didn’t need Mike to make shots tonight. We needed him to do what he did.”
Lee’s contribution was no accident, though.
“Coming into the game, Coach told me to go to the glass this game – first time all year,” said Lee. “Usually when Keith plays, I get back on defense. I never get to crash the boards. Today I was able to get in there and grab some boards.”
But in typical Lee fashion, he deferred much of the credit to his teammates.
“Thanks to Wayne and (KU junior forward Christian) Moody and Alex (Galindo, KU freshman forward), they occupied some space and I was able to get in there,” he added.
When asked about the 31-game KU winning streak against the Wildcats, Self said that the object of the game wasn’t to extend the streak as much as to give the Jayhawks a chance to play and put themselves in a position to get better for the tournament. And he thinks KU did that Friday.
“Until we got into foul situations in the second half, our defense was pretty good. The first ten minutes, our defense was terrific. Our offense was better because we ran off misses. Our zone is still not very good, and that’s my fault, but we did some good things out of that. I would’ve graded us out pretty decent tonight,” said the coach.
KU’s up-and-down shooting continued Friday night, but this time it was on the “up” end of things. KU shot 25 threes – more than half their 48 field goal attempts – and made 10 of them.
“Basically, we either got the ball to Wayne (Simien) or we shot a three, which isn’t a bad formula if you end up making 40% of them, which we did,” Self explained, “but we probably shot too many threes.”
KU will play Oklahoma State at 3:20 Saturday afternoon. The 11th-rated Cowboys needed two free throws from Joey Graham with 7.8 seconds left to survive an 87-85 scare from the Colorado Buffaloes in the late game Friday night.
Other game notes:
Langford watch: Self said that Langford’s foot wasn’t why he wasn’t even in the building Friday night – it was his stomach. Langford has been hit hard by the flu. “He’s been laid up for three days now with IVs in him. We hope that he’ll be (at Kemper) Saturday, but I don’t think he’ll play,” said Self.
Self on The Streak: “I don’t feel a ton of pressure, although losing to Missouri and K-State back-to-back wouldn’t sit real well with people I know.”
Whither big men?: Sasha Kaun made the box score with two minutes of playing time, but fellow freshmen bigs C.J. Giles and Darnell Jackson did not play. However, Self said not to read anything into that.
“The reason the other big guys didn’t play didn’t have anything to do with anything other than (Kansas State) played small with (KSU sophomore) Cartier (Martin) at the four. But that’s the advantage of having some different people is that you can out some guys in there based on how the game’s going.”
Whistle-happy zebras: Apparently, the Big 12 is paying officials by the whistle. KU and K-State were whistled for a total of 50 fouls Friday night. Texas/Colorado and Missouri/Oklahoma also approached the 50 mark.