It takes more than two players to beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas State learned that lesson the hard way Saturday.
With 19 points each, Thomas Gipson and Marcus Foster did all they could to mount an upset bid against the No. 9 Jayhawks, but with little scoring help from teammates their efforts fell short in a 68-57 loss.
“Those are our two leading scorers and we have got to help them out,” freshman forward Malek Harris said after scoring two points. “We knew that they are going to put points up on the board, but we didn’t have a great day off the bench, period. We know we can bounce back and make plays and play more together, but that’s tough.”
K-State’s offensive production was more top-heavy than usual.
Gipson played one of his best games, posting up against KU defenders and hitting 7 of 13 shots while also grabbing seven rebounds. Foster wasn’t quite as efficient, making 7 of 18 shots and misfiring often in the first half, but he had a big finish and came up with six rebounds.
Together they combined for 38 of K-State’s 57 points – two-thirds of the offense.
Add on a strong game from any of the Wildcats’ other primary scorers – Nino Williams, Justin Edwards, Wesley Iwundu or Stephen Hurt – and it might have made a huge difference. Instead, Hurt’s only points came on a pair of late threes, and no one else scored more than four points.
“It would help (for the bench) to score, that’s for sure,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “When Justin does well, usually we win games because now you have Wesley and Justin giving us something.
“Stephen Hurt, he did make a couple jumpers down the end, but maybe the game was too quick and physical for him. When we beat Oklahoma he produced and Justin produced. That is why we won.”
Of course, K-State (12-10, 5-4 Big 12) didn’t fall hopelessly behind against Oklahoma the way it did against Kansas (18-3, 7-1).
The Jayhawks led 20-5 by the second media timeout and extended that advantage to 33-17 by halftime.
Weber could sense things were slipping away, and ESPN cameras caught him screaming at his players and throwing a clipboard during the Jayhawks’ initial run.
“I was just disappointed,” Weber said. “We talked about not going one-on-one and having some pride and guarding and not letting them just drive down the middle of the lane and make layups. … You have got to keep your poise.”
The Wildcats appeared intimidated by the sellout crowd of 16,300 and played like it, making 6 of 35 shots and no threes in the first half.
“This team is just really off mentally,” Gipson said. “We have young players. We have got to pay more attention and be more focused on preparation.”
K-State battled back to outscore Kansas 40-35 in the second half, but the hole was too deep.
Kansas has won nine straight Sunflower Showdowns at home, and all of them have been decided by halftime. This was actually the closest game of the eight.
“I just don’t think we came out with the intensity that we normally do,” Foster said. “They punched us in the mouth in the first half. I thought we came out in the second half and punched them in their mouth first. We were able to battle back, but they already had enough confidence that they were in their groove.”
K-State fought back behind Gipson and Foster, threatening to pull within single digits on a few occasions. The Wildcats simply needed more contributors to get back in the game after a poor start.
“We have got to come out more focused, play harder and play with more energy,” Harris said. “We have got to realize we are all we got in this place. From the bench to the coaches, we have got to bring it and be ready.”