Kinder: KU’s stars no match for Cats’ bench

By Joshua Kinder

Bruce Weber said it best Monday night.

When asked if the Sunflower Showdown is a rivalry, the second-year Kansas State coach said, “For a day it is — we made it one for a day.”

For at least a day, the coach is right after the Wildcats upset the seventh-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 85-82, in overtime at Bramlage Coliseum.

Weber and the Wildcats lost all three meetings with the Jayhawks a year ago when the two programs wound up sharing the Big 12 regular-season championship. K-State still has some work to do if it intends to get back into the title race this season, but beating its I-70 rival sure was a good start.

K-State got the signature win using a team effort — highlighted by 35 combined points from freshman Marcus Foster and senior Will Spradling and arguably its best production from its bench all season.

Nino Williams did the damage with six points in the first half — finishing with eight — while Omari Lawrence and DJ Johnson powered the Wildcats in the second half.

Lawrence scored six straight points early in the second half to fuel a 12-2 run by K-State — he finished with nine points — while Johnson scored seven points in a span of 4 1/2 minutes later in the half to help the Wildcats to their biggest lead of the game at 66-57 with 3:30 left in regulation.

Johnson, who finished with nine points and four rebounds, also had a pair of blocks on KU’s final possession of the first half.

“It’s got to be team defense — it’s got to be team offense,” Weber said. “We have to be a good team. When we’re a good team and play with great energy, hell, obviously we’ve shown we can beat anybody in the country.”

But as good as K-State was offensively — shooting better than 49 percent from the field in the game — this win was also about what the Jayhawks’ stars didn’t do to win the game.

Sure, Foster did Foster-like things, now with 54 points in his last two games, but it was K-State’s relative no-name supporting cast that outshined Kansas’ superstar talents Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden.

The Jayhawks’ freshman trio accounted for just 24 combined points on 7-of-23 shooting from the field, a group that was averaging more than 37 points a game entering Monday night.

Wiggins had 16 points, but was 0 for 3 from the field with five points from the free-throw line in the first half. He finished 4 for 12 overall and 8 of 15 from the line.

Outside of two plays he made in the final two minutes of regulation — not counting a 3-pointer he airballed with 42 seconds to go — Wiggins was largely a dud in a game the Jayhawks have dominated for nearly 25 years.

“I thought he made a couple unbelievable plays down the stretch, but to me, there were 38 minutes before down the stretch,” KU head coach Bill Self said. “He was obviously neutralized, didn’t make shots and shot the ball poorly from the free-throw line.”

Embiid, who struggled to even stay on the court, was 2 for 5 from the field with six points and six rebounds.

“They couldn’t even play him much because our guys did a good job getting on his legs, fighting him in the post and not allowing a lot of things to happen,” Weber said.

Selden, who was averaging 13 points in his last five games — including 21 points at Texas last week — was 1 for 6 with only two points in 28 minutes against K-State.

“Your best players have to step up and make plays,” Self said.

That didn’t happen on Monday night.

Instead, K-State rode the hot hand of its special freshman — who outplayed KU’s one-and-done talents — and relied on its bench trio to beat a Jayhawks team full of hype but with very little substance to make the Showdown feel like a rivalry again… for at least one day.

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