Saturday’s box score
No. 7 Kansas 70,
No. 11 Kansas St. 54
Percentages: FG .350, FT .500. 3-Point Goals: 6-24, .250 (Rodriguez 3-8, McGruder 2-3, Irving 1-7, Spradling 0-2, Southwell 0-4). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 1 (Henriquez). Turnovers: 10 (Southwell 2, Gipson 2, Rodriguez 2, Spradling, McGruder, Irving). Steals: 8 (Southwell 2, McGruder 2, Rodriguez, Spradling, Gipson, Irving). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .491, FT .786. 3-Point Goals: 7-14, .500 (Tharpe 4-6, Ellis 1-1, Johnson 1-2, McLemore 1-4, Releford 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 6 (Withey, Young, Ellis, McLemore, Traylor, Johnson). Turnovers: 14 (Johnson 6, Young 2, Withey 2, Releford, Ellis, Tharpe, McLemore). Steals: 7 (Releford 3, McLemore, Johnson, Withey, Young). Technical Fouls: None.
Att.–19,256. Officials–Joe DeRosa, Mike Stuart, Doug Sirmons.
Kansas’ bench production, to put it bluntly, had been inconsistent and inefficient for most of the season.
By Saturday night, KU coach Bill Self said his view had changed. Freshman forward Perry Ellis punctuated a breakout weekend in Kansas City with 12 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes. And sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe had added 12 points on four three-pointers and two assists in 19 minutes.
“I go from, “(Gosh darn), we gotta play our starters 35 minutes, to now, we’re better when we went to the bench,” Self said. “I thought that was important.”
Entering the weekend, Ellis was averaging close to five points and struggling to finish inside. In three games at the Sprint Center, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while being selected to the All-Tournament team. He also knocked down his second three-pointer of the year on Saturday.
“He’s been terrific,” Self said. “And what he did today, it felt like every time it left his hand the last two days, it was going in. And they weren’t just all bunnies. (He was) making threes, making 15-footers, making all his free throws.”
“In practice leading up to this tournament,” Ellis said, “I just felt like I was getting better and better.”
Back to KC?
The big question for Kansas State now is: Will the Wildcats play at the Sprint Center again next week? K-State (27-7) entered Saturday’s action ranked 16th in the RPI. Most online bracket projections have the Wildcats receiving a top 4 seed, which would make them one of the favorites to land a spot in the Kansas City sub-regional, but few have agreed on where they will play.
For what it’s worth, K-State players think they will be back.
“We have a good resume,” Martavious Irving said. “We should.”
But the Wildcats won’t worry about their seed or destination as they wait for the selection show to air on Sunday.
“Wherever the send us,” Bruce Weber said. “We will play good basketball.”
Three for three
K-State players were disappointed that they couldn’t beat Kansas in any of their three meetings. They challenged the Jayhawks until the end at Bramlage Coliseum, but were blown out in the rematch at Allen Fieldhouse and in the Big 12 Tournament.
“Four teams beat them,” Angel Rodriguez said. “Why can’t we? I guess they just played better than us today and were the better team.”
Jordan Henriquez played extended minutes against Oklahoma State and Kansas after struggling to stay on the court near the end of the regular season. He had six points and five rebounds in 20 minutes against the Jayhawks. A back injury has held him back recently. But that wasn’t the case this week. “I’m fine. I’m ready to go,” Henriquez said. “I’m going to keep going hard. I don’t want to end my career right away.”
— Rustin Dodd, Kellis Robinett