Three takeaways from Kansas State basketball's 90-78 Sunflower Showdown loss at Kansas
LAWRENCE — The Kansas State Wildcats showed two weeks ago that they can compete with Kansas, but hanging with the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse is still a challenge.
Kansas led nearly wire-to-wire Tuesday night and claimed the second installment of the Sunflower Showdown, 90-78, to continue its home dominance of the Wildcats.
With the loss, K-State fell to 18-4, 6-3 in the Big 12, and dropped into a second-place tie with KU (18-4, 6-3) and Iowa State, a game behind Texas.
For K-State, Markquis Nowell had 23 points and four assists, Keyontae Johnson added 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Nae'Qwan Tomlin posted 11 points with eight rebounds. David N'Guessan, who missed the first meeting between the teams — an 83-82 Wildcat overtime victory — had 10 points.
Jalen Wilson had 20 points and eight rebounds, Kevin McCullar had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Dajuan Harris scored 18 points for Kansas.
Here are three takeaways from Sunflower Showdown, Chapter 2.
K-State still trying to crack the Allen Fieldhouse code
No matter the rankings — K-State came in at No. 6 and tied for the Big 12 lead, while KU was No. 8 and a game behind in the standings — the result was all too familiar for Kansas State in Allen Fieldhouse.
KU opened a double-digit halftime lead and turned back the Wildcats' only serious run after intermission on the way to its 17th straight home victory over its in-state rival.
First-year K-State coach Jerome Tang spent 19 years in the Big 12 as a Baylor assistant but said he is still learning about the history of the rivalry.
"I hope that we can bring that kind of competitiveness every time we're out on the court, because our fans enjoy the close, tight games," he said. "They want to know that they have a chance every night, and I hope we can continue to do that."
The Wildcats have certainly experienced worse losses at Allen Fieldhouse, and they still had a chance in the second half, pulling within six points on one occasion, but they'll have to wait another year to try to end the streak of futility in "The Phog."
Turnovers a killer for K-State
An old bugaboo haunted Kansas State in the first half as the Wildcats turned the ball over 10 times, leading to 15 Kansas points.
The Jayhawks, who led 49-37 at the half, finished with 21 points off K-State's mistakes.
"They play at a fast pace, and they play better at home," Nowell said. "They started with our turnovers, and they got out in transition. They got their crowd involved.
"They had a huge first half."
The turnovers were the most glaring difference in the opening period as K-State managed just 5 points off four KU miscues. The mistakes also showed up in transition, usually a staple for the Wildcats, who were at a 12-2 halftime deficit in fast-break points and lost that battle 21-12 for the game.
K-State did cut down on the turnovers in the second half, coughing it up just three times, but cold shooting kept the Wildcats from making a serious dent in the Kansas lead.
Desi Sills attacks, but Wildcat bench comes up short
Kansas State sixth man Desi Sills was shut out in the first half, but with the Wildcats down by a dozen, he was more aggressive after the break, and it paid off.
Sills drew three fouls in the first five minutes of the period and knocked down 5-of-6 free throws to cut a 12-point KU halftime lead in half, 54-48, with 15:51 left.
"I just wanted him to be aggressive," Tang said. "That's how he plays. I thought we were in the right position to make plays, but we weren't forceful enough in the first half. Like we let their bumps and physicality impact our ability to finish."
Alas, he picked up his third foul two minutes later and scored just 2 more points — also on free throws — the rest of the way.
The problem was, outside of Sills, K-State got just 2 more points from its bench, on a long jumper by Ismael Massoud. The return to the starting lineup of forward David N'Guessan, who missed the first KU game with an ankle injury, affected the rotation.
N'Guessan has now scored 19 points in two games since returning to the lineup, but Tang said it has forced him to shuffle the deck some.
"Dave adds a ton of value. He really helps our defense and he's going to continue to help our offense," Tang said. "That's why I feel like we're just going to keep getting better.
"We've got to figure out our rotations because when you add a piece, you've got to move a piece and keep them all involved, so it's a work in progress."
Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @arnegreen.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas State basketball vs. Kansas takeaways from Big 12 game