It came down to defense for the Jayhawks, which is awfully frightening for a KU team that hasn’t seen too much success at it.
Sophomore guard Malik Newman hit two free throws to give Kansas a one-point lead over Kansas State and the Wildcats had 15 seconds left on the clock to answer back.
KSU walked the ball up the floor slowly. Then held the ball for a few more seconds.
Only when the clock was under five ticks did the Wildcats look to score and by then the only option was a contested, 25-foot, high-arcing heave. Unsurprisingly, it clanged off the rim as Allen Fieldhouse exhaled.
Kansas 73, Kansas State 72.
No one in Lawrence will be feeling sorry after a victory, but none of No. 12 Kansas’ problems were solved on Saturday. Not even with the NCAA clearing highly touted freshman Silvio De Sousa for competition.
Instead, the same Jayhawks we’ve seen all season showed up again. KU (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) went 10-for-23 on 3-pointers, turned the ball over 13 times, allowed Kansas State to shoot 49 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 27-25. Even after going up by 11 midway through the second half, Kansas still let the Wildcats (12-5, 2-3 Big 12) right back into the game. KSU forward Dean Wade lit up the Jayhawks for 22 points and six rebounds while Cartier Diarra scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Kansas’ Devante Graham led all scorers with 23 points and five assists as four Jayhawks scored in double digits. It was all barely enough for a win. Granted that’s all that matters, but for a team looking to win a 14th straight Big 12 title, squeezing out a home victory against a very inferior opponent isn’t the most encouraging sign. Even when that opponent is your in-state rival.
The day started out with fans in Lawrence waking up to the news that De Sousa had been cleared and only got more stressful from there. The freshman — who has only been practicing with the Jayhawks since late December — played just four minutes and looked mostly lost in a lineup with four guards.
Bill Self asked Silvio De Sousa if he was ready for that game and he said "No" as he laughed. Said it's gonna take him a couple weeks to get it down. #kubball
— Charlie Karlen (@CKarlenKC) January 13, 2018
It’s not on De Sousa to be KU’s savior, but Kansas coach Bill Self needs any serviceable big man he can get at this point. If he can adjust to the college game quickly, and if the Jayhawks can keep winning at home, KU will be in strong position to win the Big 12 again. But right now nothing seems like a sure thing.
Not with a thin roster, not with a team that struggles to get the ball in the paint and not in a Big 12 that currently boasts five ranked teams.
Kansas has a quick turnaround now with a road game at No. 2 West Virginia on Monday night. The Jayhawks have lost their last four games in Morgantown and three of those have been by double digits.
Every win for Kansas right now is worth feeling good about, but there’s not much time to celebrate this year.
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