On the night before Valentine’s Day, Jamar Samuels poured his heart out on the court.
The Kansas State senior scored a season-high 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds against Kansas on Monday night, leading his team in both categories, but the Wildcats still came up short in a 59-53 loss to the fourth-ranked Jayhawks.
“He gave it his all,” teammate Rodney McGruder said. “He played like a grown man. He played like a guy that wanted to win and he just did everything he could.”
The game marked the last time Samuels will face KU in Bramlage Coliseum, and afterward, it could be heard in his voice and seen in his eyes how much this loss hurt.
“I just wanted to beat them,” Samuels said. “You’ve got a big-time team coming into your home and it’s a rivalry game. You want to win — you want to win. That was the mindset from the get-go — to win this game.”
Samuels hit all four of the Wildcats’ 3s on Monday while going 7-for-15 from the field in 30 minutes of action. His defense was rock-solid, helping hold Thomas Robinson, one of the frontrunners for the National Player of the Year, to one of his worst performances of the season.
In his previous two games leading up to Monday, Samuels had struggled, scoring four combined points while committing nine fouls in just 34 minutes of play. And while the offensive numbers haven’t been there of late, the intrinsic things not always visible to the eye — the leadership Samuels shows in practice — have been.
“Jamar has been awesome — Jamar is one of my guys, man,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “I’m telling you, Jamar can ask me to jump off a cliff for him and I’d do it in a heartbeat. The growth that he’s shown over the last four and a half years, I hope my kids grow up like that during their college experience.”
Martin said he’d done Samuels a disservice on the offensive end of the floor this season.
“I haven’t run enough basketball plays for him,” he said. “I’ve tried to change that here in the last 10 days or two weeks and have tried to do some stuff to create some opportunities for him.”
The 6-foot-7 forward put his team on his back in the first half on Monday, and if it weren’t for Samuels, K-State wouldn’t have been in a position to make the comeback it did in the second half against the Jayhawks. Samuels scored 11 of K-State’s 18 first-half points, scoring the bulk of his points on offensive put-backs and hustle plays.
“The thing he did in the first half, he kept them in the game,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I thought he played very well. I think he’s a really good player.”
Samuels’ performance came against a future NBA lottery pick in Robinson, and another likely NBA player in 7-foot junior Jeff Withey. The numbers were great, as was the effort. But when you get to the point that Samuels is at and he sees the clock winding down on his career, numbers don’t mean a heck of a lot. The only number that matters to him is the one in the win column. And a chance to add a big one got away for Samuels and the Wildcats on Monday.
“This loss hurt,” Samuels said.