Most years, a big KU win over the Wildcats wouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Then again, these are not Tom Asbury’s Wildcats. This was the conference’s hottest team led by first-year coach Bob Huggins. The Jayhawks were convinced it wasn’t going to be like so many previous KU-KSU beat downs.
Brandon Rush said that he certainly didn’t expect another KU laugher.
“I thought it was going to be a down-to-the-wire game,” he said. “[Kansas State] came in, we got them out of their flow, they weren’t making too many shots and everything was falling for us, so it turned into a blowout.”
And the exorcised demons? Letting leads slip away and a seeming inability to play a complete 40-minute game. At least, for one night.
Kansas put together arguably their best wire-to-wire game of the season. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 15-2 lead to start the game. KSU narrowed the lead to 31-26 with 5:19 left, but KU finished the half by outscoring the Wildcats 16-9.
The ‘Hawks then came out just as focused in the second half with a 13-2 to grow the lead to 60-39 with 14:14 left to play. Game over. Thanks for coming by.
Darrell Arthur said the team felt good about getting a lead and not only holding it but increasing it.
“We just jumped on them,” Darrell Arthur said. “We played hard on defense and tried not to let them come back.”
Sherron Collins said that Self’s halftime message was simple.
“Coach just said, ‘Keep it going, keep it going,’” Collin said.
Coach Bill Self, however, was quick to downplay any talk of exorcisms, though.
“I don’t consider not playing 40 minutes ‘demons’ or losing one game ‘demons,” he said, chuckling. “But we definitely played well and it was good to play well after such a disappointing loss Saturday.”
Self was willing, however, to give KU’s inside players much of the credit for a big win.
“When we’ve played well, we’ve been pretty good inside and when we labor, it’s in large part because we don’t rebound or score the ball enough from our bigs,” he said. “Tonight, all four of them played well.”
Darnell Jackson recorded a double-double – 13 points and 10 rebounds – despite a bad back and limited minutes (17).
Julian Wright just missed a double-double with nine points to go along with 11 rebounds in just 19 minutes. Wright was in foul trouble much of the night.
Darrell Arthur was much more active at both ends of the floor, and it showed in the box score: 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 19 minutes.
Finally, much-maligned Sasha Kaun scored nine points in just 13 minutes, showing some solid post moves against the smaller Wildcats.
KU’s “smalls” weren’t about to be left out of the party, though. Wunderkind Sherron Collins continued to rip up the Big XII with 11 points and an amazing seven assists without a single turnover in 28 minutes.
“Yeah, he’s good,” Self said about the diminutive freshman guard, “and he’s getting better all the time. I’m really pleased with him. He’s had a fabulous attitude, even when he was struggling.”
Brandon Rush knocked in 18 points, 15 in the first half including a couple of key answer baskets that stopped any meaningful KSU momentum before it got started.
Self said a big win was nice, but the margin of victory didn’t matter. “This was a game that we had to have and we played well. And as difficult as it was for Kansas State to win here tonight, it’ll be very, very difficult for us to go to Bramlage to win.”
Next up for KU is a date this Saturday with Border War rival Missouri. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Paige Sports Arena.