What We Learned: Kansas Beats Kansas State in ManhattanPosted by KoryCarpenter on January 22nd, 2013
It was close, as Vegas suggested it would be (Kansas closed as a three-point favorite). But the Jayhawks survived another tough game in the type of battle Kansas State wanted to play — slow and muddy. Kansas now takes sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and improves to 17-1 on the season. Here is what we learned tonight:
1. Kansas is learning how to win close games. Or shall I say, Kansas has learned how to win close games. Coming into tonight’s game, here is how the Jayhawks have played down the stretch in close games since losing a three-point game to Michigan State on November 13.
After Bill Self called a full timeout with 4:55 left in the game and a 54-49 lead, Kansas State finished the game 2-of-6 from the field including 0-of-3 from three-point range with a pair of turnovers. It’s fair to criticize close games against Iowa State or Temple at home, but Kansas State is a tough squad this year and Bramlage Coliseum is always rowdy when the Jayhawks are in town. Coming away with a close win is another positive learning experience this Kansas team will need in March.
2. Kansas State’s win over Florida wasn’t a fluke. The Wildcats shot 35.1% from the field and were still within three points of the Jayhawks with 40 seconds left. They held Kansas under its season shooting averages, both from two and three-point range (From two: 48.4% on the year, 45.7% tonight; from three: 36.2% on the year, 30.8% tonight). They have solid wins over Oklahoma State and #8 Florida, and their only losses are to #2 Michigan, #10 Gonzaga, and now #11 Kansas.
3. Kansas remains the team to beat in the Big 12, but it’s still a mess behind them. Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State all have one loss in conference play. Oklahoma State’s third conference loss last weekend gave us a clear line between the Cowboys and the four teams mentioned above, but it’s hard to differentiate much between that group. Kansas State beat Oklahoma, but it was in Manhattan. That win also made the Wildcats the only team of the four with a win over one of the other three schools in the group. But then again, Kansas needed a lucky three-pointer at home to take Iowa State to overtime. You can see how this can be confusing at this point. If I had to rank teams two through five right now, I would go with Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, and Oklahoma.
4. The Jayhawks are thin. Last year’s team may have proved that depth is somewhat overrated, but there isn’t much room for error if Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, or Jeff Withey get into foul trouble. Self has begun to trust backup point guard Naadir Tharpe and backup freshman forward Perry Ellis more lately, but the duo were the only bench players to register more than two minutes tonight. With defenses keying in on Withey more down low, Ellis will need to provide some offense off the bench. He was solid tonight, with eight points in 18 minutes, but it was the most he has scored since December 29 against American and his second-highest minutes total since mid-November against Chattanooga. He averages 14.4 MPG but is averaging 17 minutes per game over the last three games. Tharpe played 18 minutes tonight as well, but was far from as effective as Ellis. He was 2-of-7 from the field, 0-of-4 from three-point range, and had only two assists with his six points. He is shooting just 37.3% on the year. Those look to be the only reserves Self trusts this year.