LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Jalen Wilson remembers every insult. Any criticism. Every chip that landed on his shoulder.
You can bet the Kansas forward remembers seeing Kansas State fans storm the field after beating the Jayhawks.
Then, with revenge on his mind, Wilson and his friends jumped over the seventh-ranked Wildcats in Tuesday night’s rematch. He finished with 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the No. 8 Jayhawks cruised to a 90-78 victory that also bolstered the Big 12 standings midway through conference play.
“It was like a big rub in the face, they stormed the field,” admitted Wilson. “I always remember stuff like that.”
Dajuan Harris Jr. added 18 points for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3), who built a 12-point halftime lead before cruising to their 17th straight home win against K-State. They also picked up their second straight victory after a three-game drift and ensured they avoided suffering back-to-back losses inside Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since the 1988-89 season.
“Hey, their kids are hard to protect. They have a good team,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I actually thought we did a good job, for the most part, and our bench was great. This was the best our bench has played so far.”
Markquis Nowell had 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were chasing their biggest rival’s first regular season win in four decades.
Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points for Kansas State. David N’Guessan was 10.
“They play at a fast pace. You know they play better at home,” Nowell said. “They started early with turnovers. They came out in transition.
In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime, only for Kansas State to win on an alley-oop dunk by Johnson.
It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.
They used a 16-7 run early in the game, built by speeding the Wildcats and controlling the clock. At one point, Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang committed a technical foul and the Jayhawks extended their lead to 32-19 in the blink of an eye.
“I didn’t want to get a technician. I didn’t mind getting a techie, though,” Tang said. “I’ve been here too many times where I feel like the crowd hits the referees. And they’re human beings, and this isn’t a blow to them. I just wanted them to know that it did not seem to me that the calls were homogeneous on both sides.
The Wildcats responded with a run of their own to finish up 37-32. But that’s when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence, forced onto the field due to foul trouble among the starters, added one of his own.
Kansas eventually led 49–37 at halftime. And while the Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half, the scoreline never seemed in jeopardy. The Jayhawks extended their lead to 16 before hitting the finish line.
“I thought we had a bunch of self-inflicted wounds,” Tang said. “It was partly the environment, partly the pattern and how we tried to attack them. We’ll go back and watch it.
Johnson had to sit out with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had ridden the bench uselessly for several minutes.
TENTED… AND THEN SOME
For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space inside Allen Fieldhouse. Overflow had to watch the game on the screens at the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball. Those students also got rebates and discount coupons.
Kansas State’s three championship losses were to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State, and Kansas. And with a more lenient second half than the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.
Kansas regained its appeal with a win in Kentucky this past weekend. This win over another group of Wildcats was crucial as the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against ranked teams.
Kansas State heads home for another top-10 showdown on Saturday against No. 10 Texas.
Kansas takes to the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.