University of Kansas

Wildcats throw a roadblock in KU’s path to another Big 12 title

Kansas State’s Marcus Foster (left) tried to drive by Kansas’ Devonte‘ Graham in the first half of the Wildcats’ 70-63 win over the Jayhawks on Feb. 23 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
Kansas State’s Marcus Foster (left) tried to drive by Kansas’ Devonte‘ Graham in the first half of the Wildcats’ 70-63 win over the Jayhawks on Feb. 23 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. The Kansas City Star

Bill Self was smashed up against the scorer’s table as the party began. Jamari Traylor shook off a glancing blow from an over-zealous court-stormer. The final scene here inside Bramlage Coliseum was madness.

For Kansas, the previous 40 minutes were even worse.

“This shouldn’t happen at all,” Kansas’ Brannen Greene would say.

The Streak may live on. Self might still add another championship ring to the collection. Perhaps the title reign will continue.

But if No. 8 Kansas hoped to win an 11th straight Big 12 title outright, the Jayhawks will require some help. And after an abysmal night inside a wild and raucous Bramlage Coliseum, even snatching a piece of title No. 11 is suddenly now in doubt.

This was the stinging reality for the Jayhawks after Monday night’s 70-63 loss in the latest Sunflower Showdown. The Streak — the run that has come to define Self and his program — is now in serious jeopardy.

“We just have to regroup,” Kansas’ Perry Ellis said. “There’s no more margin for error.”

On Monday morning, Kansas controlled its own destiny. The Jayhawks needed just three victories in their last four to claim a share of the championship. They now enter Tuesday at 22-6 overall and 11-4 in the Big 12, just a half-game ahead of second-place Iowa State, 10-4.

This was the consequence of another loss here inside Bramlage, the Jayhawks’ fourth defeat in eight trips down I-70. For Kansas, this was reality.

In the next two weeks, the Jayhawks will face Texas and West Virginia at home and travel to Oklahoma. They can’t afford more setbacks.

In the final minutes, the Wildcats made more plays. The Jayhawks’ offense was absent, shooting just 36 percent in the second half. Ellis (24 points) and Kelly Oubre (14) combined for 38 points. No other Jayhawk managed more than seven in the team’s third road loss in four games.

“When we play other teams,” Greene said, “they get into their stuff, and (with us) I honestly don’t know. We’re not applying enough pressure on defense. And on offense, they deny us, and it’s like it messes up all our stuff. We can’t get into a rhythm. We’ve got to figure out something. I don’t know.”

Kansas led by as many as eight points early in the second half. It didn’t matter. The night ended with another floor-rushing, much to the dismay of Self, who spent much of his postgame news conference voicing concern about a scene that ended with several Kansas players coming into contact with K-State students and fans.

“I wasn’t nervous for me,” Self said. “There were several students that hit our players. I’m not saying like with a fist, but when you storm the court, you run in, you bump everybody, stuff like that. This has got to stop. I think court-storming is fine, but certainly you can get security to the point where players’ safety is not involved like it is here the last several times.”

Perhaps it could have been different.

The Jayhawks nearly extended the lead to 10 points in the early moments of the second half. Ellis forced a steal and filled the lane in transition, but his one-handed dunk attempt came up short and drew iron. The Wildcats would score on their next two possessions, and the Kansas lead was suddenly cut to 41-37.

By the 11:55 mark, the Jayhawks had stretched the lead back to six points before K-State climbed to within 47-44 and forced a timeout from the Kansas bench. As both teams huddled, the Bramlage Coliseum loudspeakers blasted party anthem “Sandstorm,” and the building erupted into a sea of noise. Moments later, the decibel level ticked up a notch when Wildcats guard Nigel Johnson tied the game with his third three-pointer.

Johnson would continue the onslaught, drilling his fourth three-pointer. And K-State pieced together a 60-54 lead with an 8-0 run. Two of the baskets came from K-State forward Thomas Gipson, who also forced a fourth foul from Kansas forward Cliff Alexander.

As K-State surged, the Jayhawks searched for offensive answers. For a long stretch of the second half, Ellis’ field goals (10) matched the rest of his teammates’. Sophomore guard Frank Mason finished with just four points, hitting one of eight from the floor. Wayne Selden was limited to seven points. And Greene, who was so clutch for so long in Big 12 play, missed the rim on each of his first two three-point attempts.

Another lost night in Bramlage. More postgame madness

“That’s disappointing that that happened again,” Self said. “But we also allowed it to happen again.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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