For the first time since January 5, 2014, the Kansas Jayhawks lost a game in Allen Fieldhouse, filling the arena with 16,300 pained expressions. A 51-game home win streak was put to bed and for just the tenth time, Bill Self saw defeat in the Phog.
The Kansas we have seen all season was present in the first half. Good passes, ball movement, and out-rebounding gave the Jayhawks a 10-point edge for most of the first half. Svi Mykhailiuk, bam. Frank Mason, with the oh-so-sweet finish. Kansas was seeing its first breathing room of their two-week span, opening up a huge lead on Steve Prohm and the Cyclones.
Kansas looked like they had put all distractions behind them; the highs from a huge win against Baylor and the lows of off-court allegations and distractions. They kept the focus and the lead.
But in the second half, the pleasant taste of victory and glory in the Phog turned bitter, thanks to Deonte Burton and a faceful of Iowa State offense. Burton, a shooter averaging 30% from three, kept making them. Iowa State kept making them. Monte Morris, splash from downtown, kept making them. Kansas couldn’t keep up, the lead was dwindling, and then it disappeared altogether.
Then, with 18.9 seconds left, Frank Mason and Kansas had the ball with the game tied all up. Thoughts of his game winner in Madison Square Garden appeared. It was only fitting that the senior who was already at his career high of 31 points should make the Jayhawks victorious.
It bounced off, basically in tune with the narrative of the game. The excitement and anticipation of the release was much like the first half for the Jayhawks. But when it missed, it felt like the entire second half.
“Adversity” is a word that wasn’t expected to show up after halftime. No. 3 Kansas held a 52-38 advantage over Iowa State at the break. Shots were falling, and an emphatic dunk closed out the marvelous half. It all caved through in the second half. It felt like the emotionally draining week of on-the-court action and off-the-court attention finally took its toll.
Champions don’t finish 40-0, so don’t tell me about Gonzaga. Now KU has an opportunity to face adversity and have their will to make a bounce-back performance jump to a new level. With their backs pinned to the wall, how can this team show its true grit?
F. Mason 32 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast (9-11 FG)
L. Lucas 6 pts, 18 reb
Kansas (20-3), travels to Manhattan to face Kansas State on Monday night, as the Wildcats are coming off of a win against No. 2 Baylor.