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Wildcats fall 59-53 in Bramlage to rival Jayhawks

14 Feb

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Jamar Samuels issued his final challenge to archrival Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night. The Jayhawks had won 35 of the last 38 meetings of the teams. One of Kansas State’s rare wins in the series came last year. While Samuels made a convincing case for a repeat upset, it was not enough.

The senior scored 20 points and snagged 12 rebounds. He helped stymie player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson, who emerged with just 10 points.

“I just wanted to beat them,” Samuels said. “You’ve got a big-time team coming into your home, and it’s a rivalry game, and you want to win.”

The veteran performance of Samuels stood in sharp contrast to the youthful mistakes that plagued them in a 59-53 loss.

Freshman guard Angel Rodriguez, who has buoyed the Wildcats in many recent games, hindered them against the No. 4 Jayhawks by committing seven turnovers.

Kansas State also had a difficult shooting night, converting just 20 of 65 attempts. Rodney McGruder scored 12 points, and Will Spradling added 10. The two combined for 9-of-28 shooting from the floor.

Kansas employed the triangle-and-two defense to slow down a Wildcats offense that already struggled with sluggishness.

“They’re made to get you to stand around,” coach Frank Martin said. “It got the mission accomplished. It got us to stand around, and they slowed us down.”

That said, the Wildcats had myriad opportunities late in the game after battling back from a 28-18 halftime deficit.

With 1:15 to play, McGruder hit a jumper that put the Wildcats within 55-51. They had several opportunities in the next minute, most of which came on mistakes by Tyshawn Taylor. In quick succession, he missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line, turned the ball over and missed another free throw that would have increased the Kansas lead.

Robinson made a pair of foul shots to put the Jayhawks up 57-51.

With 8 seconds left on the clock, McGruder hit another big shot to cut the deficit to four points again. By then, though, it was too late.

“Self-destructed,” Martin said. “That happens to us. When you’ve got grown men playing for you, it makes our guys look like little kids in that moment.”

Kansas State had put itself in position to win, but it could not maintain that stronghold as the game progressed.

The Wildcats launched a 12-4 run out of halftime to climb within two points of the Jayhawks, 32-30. Spradling started the scoring spree with his first basket of the game. Thomas Gipson nailed a pair of free throws, and Samuels incited some much-needed momentum by sinking two 3-pointers.

The emergence of Jordan Henriquez – with an emphatic slam followed by a workmanlike layup – allowed the Wildcats to tie the game at 34 early in the second half. Later, another free throw by Gipson gave Kansas State its first lead, 37-36.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Taylor and a bucket down low by Jeff Withey quickly restored the Jayhawks’ lead, 44-37. With six and a half minutes to play, Kansas led by 10 again, just as it had at the break.

In the first half the Wildcats made just 22.6 percent of their field goals. Samuels and McGruder accounted for all the team’s points save for one basket by Gipson.

“You play a good team like Kansas, when you get a crack, you’ve got to make it,” Martin said. “I told our guys, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. You’ve got an open shot, you’ve got to make it.”