The Kansas-Wichita State basketball series spans 14 games and 107 years. Neither are figures worthy of the term “rivalry.”
Still, the possibility of the teams meeting on Sunday in an NCAA Tournament third-round game at Omaha excites a state and more specifically its largest city. Wichita is home to die-hard Shockers and true-blue Jayhawks, and the thought of the teams getting together on an NCAA court – when the teams aren’t meeting on their own – will have the city buzzing for days.
Here’s a look at the series between the Shockers and the Jayhawks. It’s been extremely one-sided – Kansas has won 12 of the 14 meetings – but Wichita State will always claim bragging rights for what, up to now, has been the most important matchup.
Game 1: 1908-09, KU 65, Fairmount College 15 (at Wichita)
Phog Allen’s Jayhawks were 7-0 during an eight-day tour of Kansas and northern Oklahoma. The 50-point win at Fairmount was by far the biggest blowout of the seven. The teams didn’t meet again for 32 years.
Game 2: 1940-41, KU 54, Wichita 39 (at Wichita)
KU was coming off its NCAA second-place finish, while WU wouldn’t be Division I until after World War II. One of the Jayhawks that night was Ralph Miller, who a decade later would be coaching the Shockers.
Game 3: 1941-42, KU 56, Wichita 37 (at Wichita)
The Wheatshockers were 4-16 in Jack Starrett’s only season as coach. KU went on to the NCAA Tournament in Miller’s senior season.
Game 4: 1955-56, KU 56, Wichita 55 (at Wichita)
Ralph Miller’s only time in Wichita coaching against Allen, his mentor. It was the dedication game for WU Field House (the Roundhouse), which seated more than 10,000. Allen, while complimentary of the new arena – KU’s Allen Fieldhouse had opened the previous spring – noted that it should’ve been built to a bigger capacity.
Game 5: 1980-81, WSU 66, KU 65 (at New Orleans)
Twenty-five years later, there was no talk of the Shockers and Jayhawks meeting again. KU achieved three Final Fours in that time, Wichita State one. But in 1981, KU won the Big Eight Tournament for an automatic NCAA bid, and WSU won the Missouri Valley regular season to earn an at-large bid.
Both won two games at Levitt Arena to advance to New Orleans and a showdown in the Midwest Regional semifinal at the Superdome. KU led by three with 56 seconds to play and All-America guard Darnell Valentine at the free-throw line. But he missed, then WSU’s Mike Jones hit a 25-footer to cut the lead to one (no three-point line back then).
Valentine missed a breakaway layup before WSU rebounded and called time-out. As time ran down, WSU tried unsuccessfully to get the ball inside against a packed KU zone. Instead, Jones bombed again from 25 feet and made the shot heard around Kansas. WSU won 66-65.
T-shirts were printed. Billboards went up. Wichita State had achieved some measure of standing against KU. There was talk of a series between the schools. KU coach Ted Owens said, “I wouldn’t mind playing Wichita State, if our fans wouldn’t take the result so seriously.”
Game 6: 1983-84, KU 79, WSU 69 (at Lawrence)
WSU athletic director Lew Perkins and KU’s Monte Johnson agreed on an unusual four-year series: One game in Lawrence, one in Wichita, one in Kansas City and possibly a fourth if both teams won or lost in a four-team tourney in Kemper Arena.
The first game, in January 1984, featured Larry Brown’s first KU team against a Xavier McDaniel-led Shocker team in Allen Fieldhouse. KU won in front of a national television audience.
Game 7, 1984-85, KU 90, WSU 83 (at Kansas City, Mo.)
Ron Kellogg made 14 of 17 shots for a career-high 30 points in Kemper Arena. McDaniel finished with 29 on a night when there was so much pushing and shoving that both coaches earned technicals complaining about the rough play.
Game 8: 1985-86, KU 81, WSU 56 (at Kansas City, Mo.)
Without McDaniel, now in a Sonics uniform, WSU had no chance against a Jayhawk team headed for the Final Four. Afterward, when asked about the series, Brown said, “It’s stupid for us not to keep playing Wichita.”
Game 9, 1986-87, WSU 54, KU 49 (at Wichita)
The Shockers’ last victory came with an Eddie Fogler game plan designed to slow the pace. Junior Danny Manning was held to four points in the second half, 12 for the game.
Game 10, 1988-89, KU 86, WSU 66 (at Lawrence)
The schools agreed to two more games, one at each school. Roy Williams’ first team, ranked 18th, routed Wichita State to improve to 16-3.
Game 11, 1989-90, KU 93, WSU 66 (at Wichita)
The series became grossly one-sided when the second-ranked Jayhawks took apart Mike Cohen’s first team, handing WSU its worst home loss in 17 years. KU made 11 three-pointers, including Jeff Gueldner’s six seconds into the game.
Game 12, 1990-91, KU 84, WSU 50 (at Lawrence)
A two-in-Lawrence, one-in-Wichita contract was signed. And the KU margins of victory got bigger. KU led 35-6 and WSU committed eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes, 23 for the game.
Game 13, 1991-92, KU 81, WSU 51 (at Wichita)
The 27-point home defeat of 1990 was topped two years later in Cohen’s final year as coach.
Game 14, 1992-93, KU 103, WSU 54 (at Lawrence)
By now, Williams had said that KU wouldn’t continue the series without a two-for-one deal or better. WSU athletic director Gary Hunter said he wouldn’t do that to coach Scott Thompson, who was trying to rebuild the program. At that point, not many Shocker fans disagreed.