Svi Mykhailiuk traveled.
Let’s say that again.
Svi Mykhailiuk traveled.
Everyone saw this. He stuttered, may have stuttered again, but either way took two more steps — that’s either three, or four, and as you are aware the rule gives you two — before making the winning basket at the buzzer of Kansas’ 90-88 win over Kansas State here on Tuesday.
A roaring, screaming, shoving, running, shooting, loud, fun game ended when an obvious travel wasn’t called and that’s a rotten way for the party to end.
“I think everybody knows here what happened,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You want to see my phone?”
Official-blaming may be the most overdone thing in sports, and to be sure, K-State can’t put this loss on one call. Most obviously, a travel would’ve likely meant overtime. By then K-State was playing without senior D.J. Johnson — “I thought the officiating crew did a good job calling it both ways as far as fouls,” Johnson said with a straight face — so it would’ve been running uphill no matter what.
Sports are cruel. A thousand little crumbs feed every result, most of them never noticed or never discussed, and even here we could list a dozen or so things K-State did or did not do that would’ve given it a better chance at the biggest win in Weber’s five years.
The Wildcats could’ve gone inside more. They seemed to lose focus a bit toward the end of the first half, a one-point game turning into a 10-point lead for Kansas at halftime. They didn’t close out on multiple three-pointers. Dean Wade — who played well — missed a three-pointer on K-State’s last possession. We could do this for another hundred words.
But none of that matters. You can’t change the past. K-State can’t change its mistakes, and nobody can change the no-call on Mykhailiuk’s travel.
After the game, in the sad and angry locker room, Weber told his team to move on. It’s done. They play Oklahoma on Saturday. Sixteen games left after that, including one against Kansas in Manhattan, and then the Big 12 Tournament. Hopefully, the NCAA Tournament after that.
It’s the right message. K-State did a lot well here. Past teams have lost before tipoff, but this one pushed back. K-State hasn’t scored this many points in this building since 1962. This is a good team, and Weber’s was the smart message.
But like the coach said, everybody knows what happened.
“I thought a call was going to be made, but it wasn’t,” Johnson said.
“I gotta admit,” said Wesley Iwundu. “That was a tough loss.”
The oldest joke in the Big 12 is about officiating at Allen Fieldhouse. Coaches sometimes say it’s hard to beat 16,300. Other times, they say it’s hard to beat eight.
If we’re going to focus on officiating, there were strange calls both ways. If the refs should’ve called a travel on Mykhailiuk, they also could’ve called a reach-in on Iwundu. One official watched K-State’s Isaiah Maurice slap a dead ball away off the court, and told him, “I protected you on that one.” Another official heard Josh Jackson yell, “that’s a foul,” and called a technical.
There are so many subplots here. K-State has to make the NCAA Tournament for Weber to keep his job, and a win here would’ve gone a long way. The Wildcats are now 12-2, in good shape because they shoot and pass and move and play well together. Wade tied a career high with 20 points, and if he’s gathered enough confidence to unlock his talent, K-State is a different team.
Kansas has the best backcourt in the country, and Jackson will be remembered as the best one-and-done freshman Kansas has had, but coach Bill Self is calling this the worst defensive team he’s had. Udoka Azubuike’s injury shrinks the ways KU can play. At the moment, they are outscoring their problems, but there is no way to know how long that can last.
But there is a bit of a cheap feeling when a game ends like that. Afterward, a reporter asked Mykhailiuk if he thought there was a chance he traveled. Mykhailiuk smiled.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Just leave it there,” said senior Landen Lucas, laughing next to him.
“I don’t know,” Mykhailiuk said again, smiling. “It was a good basket.”
“There you go,” Lucas said, and they laughed again.
This was a rare game. K-State hasn’t played this well in this building in a very long time, KU finished with a dog pile after Mykhailiuk’s buzzer beater, and neither team will feel particularly good about it.
Again, the officials did not decide the game. But they did decide when it ended.
The rematch should be fun, at least.