In a season marred by slow starts and tough losses, the men’s basketball team managed to hold their own against the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks during the second Sunflower Showdown of the season. But, the Wildcats ultimately fell 62-58 in Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday.
For days after the last Sunflower Showdown in Lawrence, college basketball fans were buzzing about the incident that could fairly be called the Sunflower Throwdown. The last time these two rivals met face to face, it ended in a full out brawl on the court that saw several players on both teams suspended.
Kansas head coach Bill Self later referred to the event as an “embarrassment for both schools.”
As a show of good sportsmanship, both teams met and shook hands at half court after the national anthem at the start of this matchup.
From the start, Kansas was the 11.5 point favorite, but Kansas State kept the game within reach with excelled guard play. The Wildcats managed to limit the Jayhawks, keeping a grasp on their top players. Foul trouble for K-State guards and a dominant performance from Naismith College Player of the Year candidate sophomore guard Devon Dotson proved to be too much for the Wildcats.
Redshirt junior Cartier Diarra led all K-State scorers with 15 points, and senior forward Xavier Sneed wasn’t too far behind with 13. In total, K-State guards combined for 45 of the 58 points scored by the Wildcats in the game.
Foul trouble early on limited K-State — Diarra, Sneed and freshman guard DaJuan Gordon all had four fouls.
Gordon played a career-high of 34 minutes as a starter and was extremely active on the floor.
“He played his butt off,” head coach BruceWeber said.
The Wildcat guards collectively had six of the seven steals for K-State.
“I thought we guarded well — we turned them over 16 times,” Weber said.
The Jayhawks out-rebounded the Wildcats 35-23, but senior center Udoka Azubuike couldn’t steal the whole show. He was limited for most of the game after suffering an ankle injury early in the first half — he only played 20 minutes, going two of four from the floor. Azubuike finished the game with just nine points and one rebound short of a double-double.
Senior forward Makol Mawien nearly outscored the big players from Lawrence with 13 points, but struggled without offensive support down low.
Dotson was crucial for the Jayhawks, going 8-11 from the floor and leading all scorers with 25 points.
“You look over their stats, and no-one is overwhelming, except for one guy, and he’s a difference-maker,” Weber said.
Dotson took over the game for the Jayhawks, his ability to drive on full display.
“He is elite, and the thing is, he makes the right play,” Weber said. “He can score, he can get downhill.”
With a tough, but encouraging performance from the Wildcats, this game could provide a fire heading into the end of the season.
“Coming off fighting the number one team in the nation, we just have to keep that same mentality going into practice,” Sneed said.
The Wildcats finish off the season with matchups against Oklahoma State at 8 p.m. on Wednesday on the road and senior day against Iowa State. K-State is guaranteed one game in the Big 12 Conference Tournament as the tenth seed.