Saturday night's nationally-televised prime time deep-dish dilly between the Kansas Jayhawks and upstart Kansas State Wildcats lived up to the hype and then some. KU came out on top, 81-79, pushing KU (20-1 overall, 6-0 in the Big 12) back into a #1 national ranking and ruining ESPN's Digger Phelps' night.
Question for Digger: Seriously, did Ted Owens run the old pick and roll
your wife back in the day? Why the overt hate for all things Kansas?
I haven't enjoyed a Sunflower Showdown that much in years. This was two
heavyweights going toe-to-toe. It wasn't a particularly well-played
game, although both teams were really good defensively for long
Many think Frank Martin has earned his stripes this season, shaking the
knock that he can't coach. I'll give him credit for assembling a
terrific group of athletes, and it's tough to argue with his record
(17-4, 4-3). The Wildcats made some plays in crunch time, in particular
Rodney McGruder's three-point play with 34 seconds left in regulation
to tie the game. And Jacob Pullen? Stud. He'd play on any team in the
But they also did some tremendously boneheaded things. The one I can't
get over is not fouling out Cole Aldrich. The Jayhawk big man played
nearly 11 minutes of the game (5:51 of regulation and five minutes of
overtime) with four fouls. Even I know that when a big man gets his
fourth foul, you go straight at him. Well, apparently, Jamar Samuels
and Wally Judge were granted the superpower of invisibility down the
stretch because their teammates didn't see them. On the rare occasion
anyone got the ball in the paint, Aldrich simply made sure his feet
were set and his arms were straight up.
Exhibit B: how does Kansas State allow Sherron Collins to drive to the
basket for the shot that put the Jayhawks up, 79-76, with nine seconds
left in OT? Look, when Kansas came out of a timeout with :16 on the
clock and nursing a one-point lead, everyone from me to Weird Robert to
the drunk in the men's room at Rusty's Last Chance knew who was going
to get the ball for Kansas. Tackle him at the elbow. Knock him down
before he ever gets the ball. Whatever you do, make sure he doesn't get
that shot off. But they still didn't stop him. Or maybe they just
Things like fouling out the opponent's big man when he picks up number
four with 7 ½ left and making damn sure the other team's best player –
maybe the country's best player – doesn't get off the shot are things a
smart, well-coached team does. I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'.
Give Kansas State fans credit, though: they brought it like they
thought like they though it was a women's game. The beards and the
unearned "Octagon of Doom" moniker thing are weak, but Kansas State
basketball is trying to redefine itself. It's looking for new
traditions and superstitions. The last time the Bram really rocked,
Danny Manning was in uniform, not in a suit. KU's Milt Newton, current
Washington Wizards VP of Player Personnel, was trying to shut down
K-State's Mitch Richmond, six-time NBA all-star and retiree since 2002.
The bottom line is, when the Bram is rockin', it's nearly as tough an
environment as Allen Field House. Kudos to the Wildcat faithful.
It was a bit of a frustrating night for Kansas fan. Aldrich and Marcus Morris seemed incapable of making a layup for most of the game, despite
combining for 31 points (and 21 boards). Had they made their bunnies,
they combine for 45 points and KU walks out with a 12-point win in
Once again, the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were played by Tyshawn Taylor. At the 1:40 mark, he made two clutch free throws to put KU
ahead, 69-66. Just 55 seconds later, he stole the ball from Denis Clemente, sealing a KU win. Or not. Seconds later, he made a
lackadaisical pass that was picked by Rodney McGruder and resulted in
the three-point play that sent the game into overtime. To make it even
more maddening, Taylor turned around and scored four points in the
overtime, including a driving jumper-and-one to stake the 'Hawks to a
Don't get sucked into the struggles. This is the way conference games
between two good teams are supposed to be, folks. They're not all
supposed to be 24-point wins. This is especially true when it's a
Last night's game was an example of why we love college basketball. It
was a contest between two programs loaded with history and success
played out in a big-time environment on national TV. And the respect
between the two teams – as groups and as individuals – was hip-deep.
In the baseball chick movie, "A League of Their Own," has-been
slugger-turned-manager Jimmy Dugan manager tells one of his players,
"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The
hard... is what makes it great."
The Jayhawks won a conference grinder on the road in a brutally hostile
environment. They remain perfect, 6-0, in a conference that's busy
beating the crap out of each other. Last night's win makes them 20-1 on
the season. That's 21 consecutive 20-win seasons for Kansas.
No, it wasn't easy, but that's okay. That's what makes it great.
Now This Is a Rivalry!
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