FINAL, KU, 88-74
When Brandon Rush is making shots, I don’t think many teams are going to beat KU. There, I’ve said it. ‘Nique is incurring Frank’s wrath in the huddle following a timeout. Well, Mike’s getting his numbers. The others – Bill and Jake, namely. Frank is trying to get the Wildcats to finish this game strong – although it’s clear they’re going to lose. No close-outs on defense. Dick Vitale is tossing cookies to the crowd. He just tossed one to Lawrence Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan, who dropped the cookie. This one’s over, folks.
10:45 left, KU, 63-47
Rough start to the half. Frustration is building. Blake leaves with a little more 17 minutes left with some sort of lower leg ailment. Mike tosses Darnell, but K-State blows the break going the other way. Mike is hot. Darnell with a flush, bringing the crowd to its feet. Mike answers with a 3. It’s a 20-point game again. Jake gets 3, and some fan says, “About time, Pullen.” Mike gets a walking call he’ll get on the regular in The League. KU’s bigs are getting what they want. Right now, Mike is the offense, especially with Bill on the bench. Blake Young – when did he come back? – gets back-to-back buckets, and he’s fouled on the second. Blake gets the free throw. Mike glances up at the clock – K-State is down 16. Mike hits a pair, and it’s 14 points. DK again, but Rio does the same on the other end. The education of Jacob Pullen continues – Frank shakes his head in disbelief after his pass is knocked away.
HALFTIME, KU, 41-29
Mike gets the free throw, and K-State is down just 12. Frank continues to do the offense/defense thing with Mike, and the KU fans behind me have hailed this development as “brilliant.” Mike at the line, hits both. Rick informs me that KU was up 20 previously and blew a lead, which was the biggest collapse in school history. Tonight, the biggest lead was 21. Folks, there’s been a momentum shift. Just as I write that, Mike tosses up an airball to get the crowd going again. Rio is at the line, and he makes one of two. Mike aggravates his turf toe as he’s fouled. The crowd is getting on Mike pretty good. He misses the first, cans the second. Man, Frank’s been working over there. Sherron with a tough hoop before the half ends.
3:12 left in 1st half, KU, 38-25
Plumlee is quite disgruntled. He’s miffed about the ESPN representation under the basket, and he’s threatening to cancel his cable service if this isn’t straightened out. Somehow, I’m guessing his protest is going to fall on deaf ears. This chick is taking a half-court shot, and she’s got no chance. She’s 10 feet short on her attempt, and then she shorts a 3. We should ask the ESPN guys for a comment – they were watching breathlessly. The guy behind me in the front row says the difference in the two games is that K-State is shooting 20 percent from 3 tonight and “they were on fire” in the first game. That, and KU is playing with more energy than the Jayhawks have had at any point of the season – which is an indirect compliment to the Wildcats. Hey, you have to find positives somewhere, right? What’s gotten into DK? He’s making offensive moves. This is like DK 2.0. Wow, that was interesting. Could have been Mike’s 3rd foul at 6:28. Instead, it’s a block. He misses the first free throw. I think K-State has withstood the emotion. Now the Cats need to maintain the defensive intensity. ‘Nique called for a ticky-tack foul on Rush, who hits two. Kaun abuses Anderson with a hook off glass. Clent gets a deuce, but now K-State has no answer for Kaun – again. Mike’s awfully good, no? I just told Rick if they hang within 10 at the half, they’re in good shape. I know that sounds crazy, but doesn’t it just feel that way?
8:28 left in 1st half, KU, 32-16
Gale Sayers was just introduced to the crowd. Rio blows a 10-foot runner, and Arthur’s follow is short. Jake finally takes a shot, and it’s off. But Blake – with another offensive board – retrieves the miss and gets fouled. He hits a pair. Sherron drills 3, RussRob steals the inbounds pass, and Rush converts. Just when it looked like the Wildcats were in striking distance. Jake is whistled for five seconds. K-State has a break and it’s a late pass from Stew to Bill. Not much is going right. How does this look on television? Especially in high-def? Yeah, RussRob obviously feels a little disrespected. He’s trying to get to the rack whenever possible. Rick tells me that K-State has 10 turnovers and one assists. Ouch. Walker with his 3rd – plus Rush’s 3 goes down. Kaun shooting two. Blake Young looks at me on press row and shoots me an exasperated look. I can’t help you, Blake. RussRob can’t catch up to a pass in front on a break, and the official gets in the way. “C’mon, ref,” RussRob says with a smile. Mike nails a 15-footer, and then he gets a 3. KU quickly burns a timeout.
11:47 left in 1st half, KU, 23-9
Oh boy. What a blitz out of a timeout. Frank is hot, shaking his head at the officials. They’re not competing right now. Sure, the Jayhawks are getting a lift from this crowd, but c’mon. Man, Bill does some questionable things, doesn’t he? That scrum wasn’t anything nice. Digger Phelps is all animated about something. When the offense consists of Andre Gilbert trying to penetrate, you’ve got problems. Bill gets his 2nd foul at 14:53. A silly push. Bad foul – but how many times could you say that about a Walker foul? Is Dominique Sutton going to be one of those KU killers? He just drew a charge on Chalmers. Rush hits a 3 in front of K-State’s bench, which is where Beasley has been for most of the 1st half. When will Frank bring him back? Probably about 12 minutes or so, I’d guess. ‘Nique with a rebound – he’s into this game. At the line, he misses the first. He gets the second. Luis Colon just tried to grab Rod Stewart’s junk. Swear to God. Unbelievable defensive pressure by KU. Colon is out of control right now. It’s like he’s playing bumper cars and no one else got the memo. Frank is rolling the dice. He’s bringing Mike and Bill back at 13:05. But if the Wildcats are going to get back into this, he has to do it. Cole Aldrich and Ron Anderson come in, and I’m looking at the both of them. They’re roughly the same size. They play roughly the same amount of minutes. Who would you rather have? Mike and Bill playing high-low. Nothing from Jake yet. Blake busting his butt on the offensive glass, but he’s out of bounds. K-State in a zone to protect Mike and Bill. Cole Aldrich is a hero for discarding Mike to the floor.
16:38 left in 1st half, KU, 11-4
The black uniforms are sweet. Maybe the elastic shooter’s sleeve will help Bill with his touch tonight. Blake strong to the hole, drawing a quick one on Darnell Jackson. Interesting development right off the tip. Blake cans both. Darrell answers. Bill goes baseline and is out of bounds. Russ takes Blake off the bounce. Mike glides past Darnell for the answer. Mike picks up his 1st foul at 18:26, and Frank talks to him about it. Brandon drills a 3 after Andre is caught up in a screen. It’s a doomsday scenario immediately for K-State as Mike picks up No. 2 at 17:55. The KU coaches react as if they won the national title. This is a dangerous time – Bill can’t cover Darrell, by the way. Jason Bennett is pissed right now – that joke never gets old – as Sasha Kaun checks in. Bill short on his first three-point attempt. I repeat – Bill can’t cover Darrell. Bill Self is hot about something – I suspect the Jayhawks want to run the Wildcats out of the Phog.
N0t much emotion from the Wildcats. The Jayhawks just commenced diving into the floor. Frank Martin looked on, a bemused look upon his face. Things that I find interesting: KU athletic director Lew Perkins sings the national anthem, word for word; the student body presenting a bouquet of flowers to Erin Andrews, who looks good tonight – go figure; Mike shaking Darrell Arthur’s hand without any emotion, but then cracking up when Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush greet him with smiles; that the College Gameday broadcast crew, an hour before the game began, needed security guards in order to go their trailer; the ridiculous amount of Africa signs directed at Mike; that I’m sitting at almost center court opposite the scorer’s table with Rick Plumlee and without Bob Lutz and Levi because media was limited to two seats on the floor – but a slew of NBA scouts are also in attendance; I can’t believe how loud it just got in here, causing Jamar Samuels to actually giggle in response; with apologies to Bob Knight – who, best I can tell, isn’t one of the 1,047 employees ESPN has inside the Fieldhouse – but Mike has his game face on – as does Bill; I think I’d enjoy playing for Bill Self because he’s reminiscent of your favorite uncle, you know?; my parents met Fatima and it was a nice meeting, in case you wondering; I think Rece Davis does the fake, forced laugh better than anyone; Mike was introduced and stared extra long at Baby Jay, as if he recognized the mascot or was puzzled by what it/he/she is supposed to be; Curtis Malone is in the front row behind the bench; the Jayhawks are awfully loose. That’s all I got for now.