Say this for the Sunflower Showdown: Lately it knows how to finish.
The games aren’t always close or aesthetically pleasing, and the series is lopsided in Kansas’ favor.
But the best rivalry games bring enough of the extra stuff to keep the conversation going beyond the final buzzer. In this case, just before the final buzzer.
Kansas had Wednesday’s game salted away in the final seconds and the ball. Kansas State wasn’t guarding. Every player in a purple jersey was standing at least 15 feet away from the basket.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Devonte’ Graham should have dribbled out the clock but instead lobbed a bounce pass to Brannen Greene on the wing, and Greene did this odd thing. He took off toward the basket and delivered a layup- line dunk with 1.2 seconds on the clock.
The move was such a surprise that the final score was announced as 75-59. But Greene’s dunk made it 77-59, and the announcement was corrected.
Coach Bill Self was seen in the handshake line, heading toward the Kansas State bench with his eye on the KU basket, then forward, then back again. Steam was building to a boil, and it didn’t take Self long to express his anger over Greene’s action.
He opened his postgame radio interview with Jayhawks color analyst Greg Gurley with a description of the moment that included an expletive, calling it a “d--- move.” And later to Gurley, “I’m so (ticked) right now that we represented the way we did at the end.”
About 30 minutes later when he arrived at his formal postgame news conference, Self hadn’t cooled down.
“Before you ask questions I’d like to first apologize to the K-State team, the program, coaches, players for the unsportsmanlike act one of our players did at the end of the game that was totally classless. I guarantee you it will never happen again.”
Proper game-end etiquette became a topic in the aftermath. Greene’s move to score is on the list of unspoken no-nos. Leaving in starters too long or pressing to chase 100 points and calling a timeout late in a blowout are among the most common.
But there’s another element at play here. Greene’s doghouse has an addition. Earlier this season, Greene sat for six games after griping about playing time. Last season, Greene missed a game for what Self called “being irresponsible.”
Playing time is likely to be the penalty, especially with Svi Mykhailiuk turning in one of his best games in a Kansas uniform with 10 points, four assists and three steals in 21 minutes.
Kansas State didn’t leave Lawrence without delivering its own postgame message. Coach Bruce Weber went on the floor to bark at the officiating crew at the end of the first half and stopped short of getting fined after the game. He told his team to rise above the disparity. The fouls favored Kansas 15-8 at halftime.
“You have to be better than them on the road,” Weber said. “You have to fight through it. You have to be tougher than that.”
Wednesday marked the second straight meeting the action was carried into the postgame. The court storming by Kansas State students after last February’s contest kept that game alive for days and drew a reprimand from the Big 12.
The postgame obscured an interesting game in which Kansas State won the first part of each half only to see the Jayhawks storm back both times. The Wildcats dominated the boards 36-21, prompting the familiar pained “soft” description of his team from Self.
The Wildcats piled up 23 turnovers in their first game without injured point guard Kamau Stokes, and the Jayhawks contributed to the mishandling with 10 steals.
Kansas won for the 50th time in the last 55 meetings Wednesday and improved to 189-93 all time against the Wildcats. For a meeting that’s felt more like a lopsided series than a rivalry, a bit of bad blood helped the circulation, even when the ire wasn’t directed at each other.