After a thrilling win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena, the Jayhawks looked to exact revenge on an earlier loss to in-state rival Kansas State. Kansas State has been riding high these past couple weeks and rose to #7 in the rankings, only having one hiccup against Iowa State. In the gauntlet that is the Big 12, every win is crucial for survival, and in this case, it was a crucial game for both teams. Not just for the rivalry, but to keep pace in the Big 12 regular season race. Everyone on hand for what was to be another great chapter in the Sunflower Showdown.
By everyone, I mean EVERYONE showed up to watch the rivalry game. Travis Kelce, Jay Bilas on ESPN+, my mother, stepdad, the entire student body of KU (to the point of where they had to deny students entry and move them to Horjesi Volleyball Complex to watch, more on that situation in a later article, stay tuned) everyone. People were expecting a barnburner, and a barnburner they got, even though for K-State fans said barnburner was probably not as exciting. Kansas dominated the boards all game, getting and capitalizing on second and third chances. Three-point shooting also showed out in style for the Jayhawks, sinking 11 triples to K-State's 7. Kansas did not act alone however in beating the Wildcats, as the Wildcats also beat themselves. Plenty of opportunities missed that could have made this game a lot closer, but alas were not taken advantage of. Lots of those opportunities were missed simply because Kansas State shot themselves in the foot, whether it be egregious layup misses, miscues on defense, foul trouble, or just straight getting ran multiple times throughout the game with nothing to stop the bleeding. KU controlled the tempo the whole game and deserved to win that game.
Where does this put both teams, you may ask? Kansas State falls to 6-3 in the conference, and to being tied for 2nd with the Jayhawks in the Big 12 standings. Not the worst loss to suffer, but a bad one nonetheless at the hands of a fierce rival, and once again, I'll reiterate how important every game is in this year's Big 12. Anyone can win at any time, and you have to weather the storm in order to be crowned champion. It's not a world-ender for Kansas State, but it certainly doesn't help. The Wildcats will go on to face Texas, currently 1st in the Big 12, at home, and if the Wildcats can't come away with a win there, a regular season title will be tough. Still manageable, but a large game looms over Manhattan come Saturday. For Kansas, they will play Iowa State for a second time this year in Ames at one of the toughest places to play basketball in Hilton Colosseum. A win there keeps them on track, and the fact that KU has beaten this Iowa State team before helps, however they will be facing the toughest defense in the conference second maybe only to KU themselves. In a hostile environment where KU has taken losses before, it will be another test, however if KU plays like they did tonight (and limits the foul trouble, though in this conference in this age of college basketball officiating that is much easier said than done. Again, more on that in a later article) They can win and continue winning. This game was a huge confidence booster and statement win. Dajuan Harris hit his career high in points, Jalen Wilson continued to prove that he is a National Player of the Year candidate, Ernest Udeh and Zach Clemence are finally building into key front court players to help out KJ Adams, and overall this team looks much better than the team that lost big against TCU not even two weeks ago. Is it quite safe to say KU is out of their slump completely? More or less, but this Iowa State matchup will be a huge determinant in that. Win there, win against Texas that following Monday, and you're right back in first place. Lose, and you're more or less back to square one in terms of the regular season title. These Jayhawks are tough though, and much better than a lot of the nation is giving them credit for. Expect to see a Jayhawk team with fight and grit down the stretch.
Burn Notice: 10/10 Putting the "Sun" in Sunflower with that hot matchup