Magic runs out for Kansas State basketball as Kansas rallies to beat Wildcats: Four takeaways

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Jan 22, 2022; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Christian Braun (2) drives to the basket against Kansas State Wildcats forwards Davion Bradford (21) and Ismael Massoud (25) during the first half at Bramlage Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2022; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Christian Braun (2) drives to the basket against Kansas State Wildcats forwards Davion Bradford (21) and Ismael Massoud (25) during the first half at Bramlage Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

MANHATTAN — The magic of the past two games finally ran out for the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday afternoon.

After they played a brilliant first half and led by as many as 17 points early in the second period, they simply couldn't make the plays in the final minute and Kansas' Ochai Agbaji did, scoring the game's final six points to give the No. 7 Jayhawks a 78-75 victory.

The loss put a damper of a career dayfor K-State guard Nijel Pack, who scored a career-high 35 points, including eight 3-pointers. Markquis Nowell also had a big game with 16 points and six assists.

Agbaji led KU (16-2, 5-1 Big 12) with 29 points and Jalen Wilson had 16 with 10 rebounds. KU also got 11 points and 15 rebounds from David McCormack and 11 points with five assists from Christian Braun.

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The Jayhawks outrebounded K-State, 45-23.

K-State had just beaten No. 19-ranked Texas Tech and No. 22 Texas in the last week after a 0-4 start in the Big 12. With that mini-streak coming to an end, the Wildcats fell to 10-8 overall and 2-5 in the league with a trip to No. 6 Baylor coming up on Tuesday.

Here are four takeaways from the game:

Falling short at gut-check time

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber talks often about winning at gut-check time. For 39 minutes, the Wildcats had all the answers, but in the end it turned out to be gut-punch time instead.

After Pack hit a runner in the lane with 3:05 left to put K-State up 75-69, Kansas scored the game's last nine points, seven by Agbaji, who also had the final six. Agbaji's layup with nine seconds left gave the Jayhawks a 76-75 advantage, and after a missed 3-pointer by Pack, he tacked on two free throws.

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"Obviously it hurts," Weber said. "I think we’re a good team. We just didn’t make the plays when we had to.

"We got everyone together, we’ve competed with the best teams, we’ve beaten some of the better teams. Now we just let an opportunity slip by, because we played really good basketball."

K-State crashes on the boards

On a night when Kansas was not at its best offensively, K-State's downfall was its inability to keep the Jayhawks off the boards.

"In the second half they just pounded us on the glass," Weber said. "I mean, it's pretty simple. They just kept coming at us. They were determined.

"The 19 second-chance points, 18 offensive rebounds (and) 40 points in the paint. That’s the big difference-maker."

More: Kansas State holds off No. 22 Texas, 66-65, for second straight Big 12 victory

KU also got to the free-throw line 30 times and outscored K-State from the stripe, 21-11.

"We gave up too many offensive rebounds, and that was the game-changer right there," Pack said. "We stopped all their actions, we played really good defense, and then they got two, to three, four more shots in one possession. It’s hard to beat a team when you get that many opportunities at it.”

When you're hot, you're hot

Kansas State scorched the nets to the tune of 59.4% in the first half, forcing KU coach Bill Self to use three timeouts.

Pack was next-level hot, scoring a season-high 22 points in the half alone on 8-for-10 shooting, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range. Even with KU switching to a triangle-and-two in the final four minutes, Pack made 12 of 18 shots in the game, going 8-for-12 from beyond the arc.

"He was 4-for-4 to start, so when he’s that hot you've just got to keep feeding him and keep believing that he’s going to make it," Nowell said. "He was playing at the maximum level.

"He played like that for the whole game, I just wish we would have buckled down on the defensive end in the second half and got the win.”

More: 'He was everywhere': Kansas State basketball guard Markquis Nowell a force on defense

In the end, the big offensive game was small consolation for Pack.

"The energy in the stands and my teammates looking for me, it was just great to be able to shoot (and) have the day I did," Pack said. "It was great personally, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t mean anything. We got a loss.

"Nobody's ever going to talk about a loss. It sucks, but we've got a quick turnaround here. (We've) got to play at Baylor, it's going to be a tough atmosphere to play in, but all I care about is getting the W. So that’s all I’m focused on now.”

Nowell was equally as effective in the first half, making 4 of 5 shots and scoring 11 points with five assists and three steals. He was 6 of 14 for the game and tied Pack for the team lead with three steals.

"As good as Pack was, let’s not get it twisted," KU coach Bill Self said. "Nowell was the one that made all the plays off the ball screens to make it easier for everybody else.

"Those two guards were just better than anybody we had in the first half. Second half we kind of changed how we did it, but it wasn't anything spectacular. Probably what won the game though is when we went to triangle and two to end and I think that threw them off rhythm when it counted the most.”

Stopping the bleeding

K-State showed it could play at a high level for an entire half on the way to a 50-34 lead, but the true test came when KU reeled off nine straight points, cutting a 17-point deficit to 55-47 with 15:10 left.

Weber had seen enough and called a timeout, and the next possession produced a missed Pack 3-point attempt. The Jayhawks answered with a Wilson layup, extending the run to 11 points and closing the gap to six.

Selton Miguel finally broke the Wildcat drought with two free throws at the 14:16 mark and Pack added a 3-point play with 13:07 to go that pushed the lead back to double digits, 60-49.

K-State held the lead from that point all the way to the 9-second mark, when Agbaji got the game-winner.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas State basketball falls to Kansas 78-75

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