Men’s basketball falters in the second half, loses to Kansas

Kansas State freshman Davion Bradford attempts to block a shot during Tuesday's game against Kansas. The Wildcats lost 74-51. (Photo courtesy of Richard Sugg | Kansas City Star)

Senior guard Mike McGuirl and freshman guard Nijel Pack scored ten points apiece, but the Wildcats fell 74-51 against No. 23 Kansas Tuesday night.

This is the ninth straight loss for the Wildcats (5-12, 1-9) overall and the fourth straight against Kansas (12-6, 6-4). The game marks the 200th loss in the Sunflower Showdown for Kansas State out of 294 contests.

“In the second half, it’s pretty simple — they just out-toughed us for offensive rebounds,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “Once they got those rebounds and had that little run, then they made a couple of threes and then we had ourselves in a bind.”

The matchup against the Jayhawks is the first of five consecutive opponents currently ranked or receiving votes in the AP Poll. Fortunately for the Wildcats, the farthest K-State travels in that span is to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to play Oklahoma State.

Sophomore DaJuan Gordon didn’t play against Kansas as he sustained an injury early in the loss to Texas A&M. McGuirl said missing Gordon affected the Wildcats.

“I know he wanted to be out there with us tonight,” McGuirl said. “Right now, he has to focus on his recovery and getting back to full health before he even thinks about stepping on the court.”

Gordon leads the Wildcats in rebounds and is the second-highest scorer, averaging 9.3 points per game.

The Jayhawks, fresh off an 80-61 loss, needed the win. Kansas slipped in the conference and the national rankings after losing four of the last five games.

Kansas started the contest with an early 13-4 run in the opening five minutes. For Pack, lack of focus played a factor in the early deficit.

“We just didn’t have enough focus,” Pack said. “We were excited, a little too jumpy to start the game and that is what got us out of rhythm.”

The Wildcats stormed back during a Jayhawk scoring drought, cutting the lead to 18-12 with eight minutes remaining in the half. K-State trailed 33-25 at the half while only shooting 39 percent from the floor.

The Jayhawks went on to dominate the second half — the game got out of hand halfway through with a 17-6 scoring run to take a 50-31 lead. Kansas needed that run to push past K-State.

“In the second half, it’s pretty simple, they just out-toughed us for offensive rebounds,” Weber said. “Once they got those rebounds and had that little run, then they made a couple of threes, and then we had ourselves in a bind.”

The Wildcats shot 22 percent from the floor in the second half and went 2-9 from three-point range.

K-State finished the afternoon shooting 34 percent from the floor. The 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year winner, Jayhawk senior Marcus Garrett, limited Pack to only ten shots on the night.

The Jayhawks balanced on the scoresheet with four players in the double-digits. Sophomore guard Christian Braun and junior forward David McCormack led Kansas with 18-points apiece. The Jayhawks shot 43 percent from the floor.

McCormack finished with a double-double with ten rebounds.

Kansas dominated the play down low, leading in rebounds with 41 and outscoring the Wildcats 38-18 in the paint. The Jayhawks dished the ball easily with 17 assists on the night.

K-State plays No. 13 Texas Tech at 3 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum. The game will air on ESPN+. Radio coverage will be through the K-State Sports Network.