A big upset, two close calls, and a statement from a contender. Last night was quite a fun night of Big 12 games.
Colorado 74 Kansas State 66
Colorado pulled off its second upset in as many conference games, this time on the road. They even did it without a good game from Alec Burks, who scored just 10 points on 4-15 shooting. Colorado just made shots when they needed to, most of the time it was Levi Knutson, who made 6-8 from behind the arc.
The national media will make this game more about Kansas State’s failures, which may actually be fair. K-State still looks like a mess, leaving open perimeter shots on defense. Their offense looked worse, and didn’t really produce anything until Jacob Pullen started playing 1 on 5 in the final 5 minutes. This is more than just needing Curtis Kelly back. The Wildcats miss the leadership of Denis Clemente, as well as his ability to make shots. They need their big men to play better as a group, especially Jamar Samuels.
For now, Colorado might be the most impressive team in the conference, and K-State the most disappointing. It will be interesting to see how long CU can stay among the elite. They play at home Saturday against Oklahoma State, a team they might be favored against right now. For K-State, they get a little breather, playing at home Saturday against Texas Tech. A gimmie game if there ever was one.
Texas A&M 71 Oklahoma State 48
From the looks of things, Texas A&M is a true power in this conference. Sure this game was at home, and they were expected to win, but not this easily. Oklahoma State is a good team, one that will probably be a fringe NCAA team in March, and TAM blew them out of the building. Their defense was amazing, and had poor Marshall Moses bothered even when there were no defenders by him. He was rushed all night.
Offensively, Texas A&M is impressively balanced, with nine players scoring last night. They were most effective with the pick and pop game, especially to Nathan Walkup, who it seemed spent the entire game sitting wide open at the three-point line.
For Okie State, they were just overwhelmed last night. Fouls were part of the problem, particularly for Keiton Page and JP Olukemi. Page just cannot defend Big 12 players, and without James Anderson around for teams to focus on, Page also cannot get an open look. After being the best player on the court against K-State, Olukemi fouled out and took just two shots.
Oklahoma State plays Saturday at Colorado, a very tough game, and one they will probably lose. TAM will host a tough Missouri Tiger team at home Saturday. A true measuring stick game for both teams.
Missouri 77 Nebraska 69
A predictably boring game. The Missouri lead hovered between eight and 12 most of the night, creeping closer once or twice. Poor execution at the free throw line by Missouri kept Nebraska in it during the final minute. Marcus Denmon tied his career high with 27 to lead the Tigers. Nebraska was led by guard Toney McCray, who had 17.
We’ll post a clip of Laurence Bowers’ dunk later if we can find it, probably the dunk of the year in the conference so far.
Kansas 84 Iowa State 79
Give Iowa State credit, they sure tried. They kept the game close all night, and had a couple of chances to really give Kansas a run, but never could. They just didn’t have enough to beat one of the best teams in the country.
Marcus Morris was the star for Kansas, scoring 33 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. His brother added 17, and Josh Selby tossed in 14. The offense was fine for Kansas, even if they struggled from behind the arc again. Their identity as a team is to pound it inside to the Morris brothers, and when they lose, it will be because they forget that and get three-point happy.
I feel for Iowa State at this point, another close loss. They just didn’t have enough at the end, despite getting 27 from Diante Garrett, who played all 40 minutes. They will steal a game or two at home this season, and it appears they are headed in the right direction. No longer another easy win for the rest of the conference.
Kansas hosts Nebraska on Saturday, and Iowa State hosts Baylor.