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Wildcats can’t overcome slow start to Jayhawks

By Cole Manbeck

LAWRENCE — The following is the norm in Allen Fieldhouse: Kansas attempts to deliver a knockout blow in the opening minutes of the game. If an opponent can survive that punch, it has a chance — most don’t survive. 

The Jayhawks more often than not come out on fire from the floor; the opponent shoots as cold as ice. KU’s shots bounce off the back iron, roll around on the rim and trickle in; opponents’ attempts rattle in-and-out.

There’s something about the mystique of Allen Fieldhouse that does this to teams — perhaps it’s the deafening noise or the talent the Jayhawks possess on a yearly basis. And like the majority of the opponents that walk in there have done, Kansas State fell victim to it. The 23rd-ranked Wildcats fell behind by 18 points out of the gate and never fully recovered, losing 67-49 on Wednesday night to drop to 11-2 and 0-1 in Big 12 play.

“I have never, in 27 years, including coaching 13-year-olds, been part of a game where our team got its tail whipped in the physical part of the game the way we did today,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “It was a complete mismatch. I told the media folks that were at our place (Tuesday) that 10 minutes into the game the game would probably be over and that’s what happened.”

Getting off to a good start in Allen Fieldhouse is a monumental task, so when K-State took a 1-0 lead on a Jamar Samuels free throw, it was, in a way, kind of a big deal.

“I almost called a timeout when we were up 1-0,” Martin joked. “I was so excited we had a one-point lead in the first half.”

Soon after, KU took over. The 14th-ranked Jayhawks (11-3, 1-0) executed an 18-2 run to build a 23-5 lead with 8:39 left in the game. In the opening 12 minutes, K-State made two of its first 16 shots, while KU connected on 10-of-19 from the field.

“With the first five, six minutes of the game here, I think every team that comes in here deals with it, it’s not just us,” Martin said. “I watch tape, I see everybody is down 12-2 to start the game here. It’s unbelievable.”

The Wildcats would make a charge back in the second half. Trailing 35-20 at the half, K-State’s defense gave it a chance early and the Wildcats began to capitalize on the offensive end, led by senior Jamar Samuels. The forward buried a 3 with the shot clock running down to bring K-State to within eight points, then drove to the basket and scored to make it 39-33. Samuels then connected on another 3 at the 12:30-mark, bringing the Wildcats to within three and forcing KU coach Bill Self to call a timeout.

The Jayhawks were scoreless for nearly six minutes, missing four shots and turning the ball over another four times during the Wildcats’ comeback.

Martin said that stretch happened because K-State simply did its jobs.

“We actually didn’t stand around and watch Thomas Robinson grab every rebound,” he said. “We decided to compete a little bit, we decided to run the stuff that we practice, not hold the ball and play one-on-one. When we shot we actually did our jobs and got on the glass. For about a five-minute segment there, we played the way we usually play.”

But after scratching and clawing right back into the game, K-State couldn’t get over the hump. K-State went to a zone defense, and Conner Teahan made it pay, drilling two straight 3s from the baseline to push the lead back out to 45-38, and just like that, another KU run was on.

Using a 21-7 spurt, The Jayhawks pushed their lead to 60-43. K-State couldn’t recover after that.

K-State shot 31.6 percent from the floor in the game, but the telling stat came on the glass, where KU outrebounded the Wildcats 50-26, including 19 offensive boards.

“They got 24 more possessions than us,” Martin said. “Rebounds to me is discipline and effort. When you’re not willing to lay your body into somebody that’s not very good. We take a lot of pride in doing that, we obviously didn’t do it today and we got what we deserved for it.”

Self, whose team ranked 14th nationally, outrebounding teams by eight per game, said KU’s defense and rebounding were the keys to the game.

“We were so excited to start the game, but one thing we did the whole night is we really defended,” he said. “We really guarded their stuff well the first half. That was about as good as we defended a top-25 team in a long time. They missed some shots, but they didn’t get a lot of good looks. The most important statistic is what we did on the glass. I thought our guys were as good as we have been in a long time on the glass.”

The hardest part of playing in Allen Fieldhouse usually hits the young guys the most, and it held true Wednesday. K-State’s freshmen combined to play 28 minutes and failed to score. But they will learn and get better from this moment, as will the rest of the team, Martin said.

“When you have some young guys like we have, they get wrapped up in that emotion and can’t overcome that,” he said. “It makes it hard. It’s a heck of a lesson for every player that ever plays in this building.”

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