No one really thought the three consecutive losses meant that Kansas are that bad. It was simply a road bump, a tough one to overcome. But when you have the most talented freshman in the nation, what’s a little adversity? Kansas State were just what the doctor ordered.
The last time the Jayhawks won a basketball game before their rivalry game against the Wildcats was back in January (seems ages ago, right?) against West Virginia, in a win that helped them establish the top spot in the nation. That was the last in a run of 18 consecutive wins, including in Manhattan against the Wildcats six days earlier.
So Kansas saw the Wildcats arriving to a game ranked higher for the first time since 1988, and couldn’t stomach the fact. Suddenly, the shots went in. Kansas dominated the boards, grabbing 39 to 20 thanks to a resurgent Jeff Withey, scoring 17 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and adding 5 blocks. Ben McLemore simply had his best game of his College Basketball career at the perfect time, scoring 30 points (second 30+ game this season, adding 7 rebounds.
It wasn’t even close, not for a minute. Kansas ended up winning 83-62, leading by 18 points at half time. They had a 21-6 and 14-6 run in the first half, and that was it. Naadir Sharpe, coming off the bench, played for 27 minutes and may have answered Bill Self’s questions regarding his point guard play. Sharpe finished with 8 assists and 7 points, showing he might be the one that needs to play next to McLeMore.
Whiel McLemore got all the offensive accolades and the crowd’s love, Withey set a new school record for career blocks with 263, breaking Greg Ostrateg’s record. Up next? Chris Mihm and 264, which is the big 12 record.
When you go through hardships, you get humbled. We had so much pride. We kind of started to look down on our opponents. You lose three in a row, you come back down to earth. What happened to us is going to help us in the long run.
Whatever it was that needed repairting for the Jayhawks seemed to have a lot to do with their minds and mentalities than their basketball. Bill Self’s tactics of putting them down in front of the media didn’t work, and a loss to Oklahoma State was followed by a loss to TCU and then Oklahoma. Something that happened this week – maybe being humbled by lesser opponents and the knowledge that their run as Big 12 champions is at risk changed what needed to be changed.
Losing three in a row, I understand it’s not forgivable. It’s a terrible, terrible deal. But what we’re going through is what … 99 percent of all teams in America go through. We’d gotten spoiled just like everyone else around here. We thought, ‘This won’t happen to us.’ We just sat there and took it and allowed it to happen.
Some say that you have to go through some sort of crisis in order to become stronger and better, unless you’re too talented to be disturbed. No one is like Kentucky from last season; a level above the competition. Kansas are fragile, and they showed it. Maybe it’s better they lost when they did, setting themselves up for a stronger finish.