Kansas Falls to Wichita State in Round of 32

“Perspective-wise, there’s no way I’ll say it was a great year.” – Bill Self.

This was the matchup Wichita State fans were dying for. KU-WSU was the matchup everyone wanted from the moment the selection committee made it possible. Both teams knocked out their opponents in the round of 64, setting up a matchup of the two best teams in Kansas with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.

The significance of the game was apparent from the second I entered the arena. Both teams were well-represented by their fans. The crowd was a sea of blue and yellow, even with No. 1 seed Wisconsin playing later in the day. The crowd was rowdy, but it was obvious that Wichita State fans simply were more energetic. This was more than a normal game for them.

The game started out great for the Jayhawks, sparked by Frank Mason singlehandedly leading the Shockers 6-4. The first 12 minutes were full of great play by Kansas, who were full of energy and looked like the better team. Mason and Ellis were at the top of their game. Despite early foul trouble and some very questionable calls, the game looked to be the Jayhawks for the taking.

Then Wichita State started coming back, hitting shot after shot. The Shockers were beginning to outwork the Jayhawks. Fans got a scare when Perry Ellis went down, bleeding. He returned to the game soon, but was clearly far less than 100%.

Wichita State went on a 13-2 run to take a 29-26 lead into halftime as Kansas made some sloppy plays just before intermission, including a turnover with only seconds left before the half.

The general consensus of Kansas fans in the arena was that Self would fire up his team and they would come out ready to play.

The result was completely different. The Jayhawks continued to play without much energy. The Jayhawks team that was so good the first 12 minutes was nowhere to be found.

The Shockers built their lead and stopped every run the Jayhawks tried to make. The Kansas players spirits dropped lower and lower. The bench players spent every time out trying to get their teammates back in the game, trying to get their heads up. It was obvious by each players body language that the Jayhawks had all but given up.

The players were not the only ones. The Shockers half the building were ecstatic. The Jayhawk faithful were deflated. Kansas would hit a three, and Wichita State would answer back with their own almost immediately.

In the arena, the turning point seemed to be when Kansas played fantastic defense and should have gotten a five-second call on a WSU inbound play. After what seemed like six and a half seconds, Gregg Marshall called a timeout. The Shockers scored when they came back, and the game was all but over.

After that five-second call wasn’t made, Self was furious, and immediately went to the referees and ripped into them for the entire timeout.

Things they showed on the jumbotron at the game after that five-second call:

Immediately after the timeout was granted to WSU, they showed Self’s face on the board. He was furious and yelling. After about four seconds, they switched to Gregg Marshall. He had a big smirk on his face. That seemed to be a perfect representation of the game.

During the timeout after the no-call, they showed two KU fans on the board. The first was a teenager, maybe 19, who seemed to have given up on the game, and was looking down. When someone told him he was on the board, he sighed and shook his head and looked back down. The second fan was a man who was angry and held up his hand and counted off all 5 fingers and said “Five seconds! One, two three, four, five!”

That was the emotion of all KU fans. Either extremely furious about the call or giving up hope because of it.

The final result was a 78-65 Wichita State win that will go down in Shocker history. Kansas failed to get out of the first weekend  for the second straight year.

For Kansas, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season. The Jayhawks did manage to win their 11th consecutive Big 12 title and extend the streak. They are likely to return most of the players from the team. The future of Kelly Oubre is yet to be announced, but it is safe to say as a projected lottery pick, he will be gone. Cliff Alexander’s situation is still up in the air also, as it is yet to be determined if he will even be eligible to return next year if he does choose to.

The end of the season almost always hurts, and this was no different. This game feels like Kansas had a great chance to win and they let it slip away. The future is bright and Kansas will have a great base for a team next year, but that doesn’t stop this loss from hurting.

NOTES:

  • Ellis: 17 points with 9-10 free throws and 8 rebounds.
  • Graham: 17 points, 3 assists and 5 steals in a career-high 29 minutes.
  • Mason: 16 points and 6 rebounds. Also a career-worst 5 turnovers.
  • You know how many turnovers Naadir Tharpe committed in last year’s Stanford loss? Yup – Five.
  • Oubre: 9 points and 5 rebounds. His Kansas career likely ended with a flagrant foul-out.
  • Traylor: 4 points and 5 rebounds.
  • Lucas: 2 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Alexander: played pretty good. At least according to Charles Barkley.
  • Selden: 1 rebound. Now 4-21 with 11 points and 6 turnovers in four career NCAA Tournament games.
  • Greene: 1 assist.
  • Kansas: first team to lose 6 times in the first weekend of the tournament as a top-two seed.
  • Wichita State shot 49% from the field, Kansas shot 35%.
  • The Shockers were a flaming 64% from the floor after intermission.
  • Wichita State shot 50% from three compared to 29% for Kansas.
  • Five Wichita State players reached double digits in scoring: Cotton, VanVleet, Wessel, Baker, and Carter.
  • Wessel, who shoots 33% from three, hit 4 shots behind the arc. The “white guy who never hits threes suddenly can’t miss against Kansas” curse continues.
  • Kansas’ 35% field goal percentage was its third-worst of the year after the Kentucky and Temple blowouts. KU lost by 10 points three times in 2014-15, and it shot 35% or worse in all three.
  • That five-second call that wasn’t called very possibly would have changed the game. The momentum was beginning to shift towards Kansas, and when Wichita State scored after that, it took whatever the players had left out of them.
  • KU fans now have to watch Mike Moustakas bat 500+ times before another minute of Jayhawk basketball occurs. Ughhhhhhhhhhh.

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Dylan King

Staff writer for Rock Chalk Blog. http://twitter.com/_DK22