Men’s basketball falls to Kansas after blowing big second-half lead

Junior guard Markquis Nowell with the ball during the Wildcats' 78-75 loss to Kansas on Jan. 22, 2022. (Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Kansas State’s men’s basketball team (10-8, 2-5 Big 12) lost in a heartbreaker to in-state rival Kansas (16-2, 5-1 Big 12), 78-75.

With eight seconds left in the game, Kansas senior Ochai Agbaji scored the game-winning layup to take the lead. The Wildcats had been in the lead since 16:27 left in the first half.

Sophomore Nijel Pack missed his final three of the game before Agbaji was fouled and taken to the free-throw line for the final two points of the night.

Pack led the Wildcats with a career-high 35 points. He shot 12-18 from the field, including 8-12 from the three-point line.

“I mean, you could just see it, a couple of them just left his hand and you knew it was going in,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought that the last one was going in. A little bit longer than probably he needed it to be. Yeah, he had one of those special days. That’s what’s so hard to take because you’re not going to get that every day from him.”

Leading with Pack, junior Markquis Nowell finished the game with 16 points from 6-14 shooting, while sophomore Selton Miguel finished with 11 points, shooting 4-10 from the field.

The Wildcats went into the half leading the Jayhawks 50-34. From there, the Jayhawks battled to cut the 16-point lead, using every second of the second half.

“It’s tough for everybody right now, I know everybody is going to be upset about what happened, I didn’t want to get on any guys yet, but everyone going to be upset right now,” Pack said. “But by tomorrow, we’re going to have to talk to the guys and say, ‘We’re going to have to put that behind us.’ It sucks, but we can’t hold our head on it too long because it’s a long season, and one game doesn’t define us.”

Bramlage Coliseum was packed with a crowd of 9,737 fans for the 296th edition of the Dillon’s Sunflower Showdown.

“Our fans were great. They gave us the energy that we needed in the first half,” Nowell said. “We didn’t repay them with the W, but we know it’s a long season. The fans bring just as much energy as we do. We try to match that or surpass that during the game.”

The Wildcats will be back in action at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25, taking on defending NCAA champions Baylor in Waco, Texas. The game will air on ESPN+, with a recap on the Collegian.