Rushed Reactions: Kansas 83, Kansas State 67

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2018

RTC’s Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) is providing on-site coverage of the Big 12 Tournament.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kansas Cruised Past K-State in the Big 12 Tournament Semifinals (USA Today Images)

  1. Kansas’ bomb squad lifts team to victory. With center Udoka Azubuike recovering from an MCL sprain, the Jayhawks knew what they had to do to maintain control and they went out and did it. Twenty-eight of Kansas’ 60 attempts from the field came from beyond the arc, and they connected on 39.3 percent of their tries. Devonte’ Graham was relatively quiet (3-of-11 FG), but he still found a way to approach his season averages, scoring 15 points and dishing out eight assists against just three turnovers. It wasn’t always pretty, as Kansas State at one point cut a 16-point deficit down to two, but it was enough to move on to the championship game tomorrow night.
  2. Personnel issues set Kansas State back. Already without the services of first team All-Big 12 forward Dean Wade, Kansas State was further hampered just a minute into the game when guard Barry Brown took an inadvertent shot to the eye from Graham. Trainers quickly took Brown to the locker room for evaluation and he warmed up on the court prior to the start of the second half, but he never re-entered the contest. Without its two best playmakers, offense quickly became a chore for Bruce Weber‘s team. Forward Makol Mawien was incredibly efficient in the post on his way to a game-high 29 points, but his night was more of an indictment of Mitch Lightfoot‘s interior defense than it was an endorsement of his own game. The Wildcats’ jump shooters had trouble producing all night, which only underscores Wade’s importance to the team.
  3. Kansas needs Udoka Azuibuike healthy in order to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. Between Wade, Azubuike and Mohamed Bamba, Big 12 big men have been dropping like flies, but no team has as much at stake in the health of its frontcourt centerpiece as Kansas. While Silvio De Sousa pitched in with 11 rebounds in 19 minutes of action, he was frequently lost on offense, leading Bill Self to look down his bench knowing that it offered little in the way of solutions. Meanwhile, Lightfoot helped free up Kansas’ shooters and cleaned up a couple of misses, but couldn’t keep up defensively with an average post player in Mawien. With Azubuike, the Jayhawks have Final Four potential. Without him, their season could be over in the blink of an eye.

Star of the Game. Malik Newman, KansasWith Azubuike out, the Jayhawks have doubled down on their backcourt for additional scoring punch. The sophomore transfer answered the bell in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Oklahoma State and did so again on Friday night. Newman finished with a terrific all-around line of 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, including a couple of back-breaking threes to put the Jayhawks comfortably ahead in the second half.

Quotable: “They didn’t quit the whole time. I am proud of them. We have a great group… We have shown courage the whole way.” Bruce Weber has taken heat throughout his tenure for the way he has comported himself in press conferences following notable losses, but you can’t accuse him of not having his team’s back.

What’s Next? Kansas moves on to face the winner of tonight’s nightcap between West Virginia and Texas Tech, but no matter the opponent, the Jayhawks’ potent backcourt rotation will face much heavier pressure on Saturday. Safely assured of an at-large bid, the Wildcats head back to Manhattan to find out where they’re headed and who they’ll play next week.

Brian Goodman (965 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *