The Wildcats came out of the gates strong, getting out to a 24-15 lead thanks to the three-ball. But the Jayhawks came storming back, thanks to 16 first-half points from freshman Josh Jackson. Kansas led 52-42 at the half, and Jackson finished the game with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and added a steal and a block.
He continues to impress with his passing, dropping a slick drop-pass to Carlton Bragg in the first half:
The second half started harmlessly, with Kansas responding to every Kansas State run to keep the lead around 10. Eventually however, Dean Wade was just too much down low for the Jayhawks, as he scored nine points in the final 11 minutes of the second half.
Wade finished the game with 20 points on 6-12 shooting from the floor and 8-9 shooting from the free throw line.
The Wildcats finally tied the game with 1:48 left on a Barry Brown layup. Then, with the game tied at 86, Landen Lucas and Wesley Iwundu traded buckets to tie the game at 88, leading to Mykhailiuk’s buzzer-beating layup.
Lucas finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Iwundu finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
What to watch going forward: the defense (particularly the interior)
Kansas State finished the game shooting just over 50 percent overall from the field, which is concerning in itself.
Even more concerning is that they shot 60 percent from inside the three-point line. That means that in the three games since losing Udoka Azubuike for the season due to a wrist injury, Kansas has allowed opponents to shoot 50.8 percent from two-point range. This is after holding other teams to to just 38.6 percent from inside the arc before Azubuike’s injury.
Part of this spike could have to do with the fact that the competition has gotten better. There’s no more pushover games against teams like UMKC or Long Beach State. But still, UNLV isn’t going to make the NCAA Tournament, and TCU and Kansas State aren’t exactly going to be shoe-ins either, despite how good they may have looked against Kansas.
Azubuike’s block rate of 12.6 percent was first among the Jayhawks rotation players by a substantial margin.
The next closest is Josh Jackson at 5.1 percent. Traditionally, Self has had a shot-blocker in the middle of his defenses, though he managed to build a top 30 defense last season without one, and won a championship without one in 2008.
So not all is lost, and there’s still time for this team to become a championship team. We’ve all seen Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham be good defenders, and Josh Jackson has all the tools. Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick have both shown flashes as well.
Still, this team isn’t putting any pressure on the ball, and there’s way too much easy ball-penetration. It gets worse now that there’s no Joel Embiid, Jeff Withey, or Cole Aldrich to erase those mistakes.