Most people would expect something superfluously chauvinistic from me on Valentine’s Day. Instead, I decided to do something for me. A joyous diary of one of my favorite games of the season, the KU at K-State game (I’m intentionally replacing “vs” with “at” because if you forget about that Beasley aberration a few years back, the game in Lawrence is more of a demonstration than a competition). The time is currently 9:00 pm EST on the Riedesel in-house clock. I’ve got an ice cold can of Coca-Cola Classic and a butt-load of enthusiasm. If you’re new to me, I’m a Jayhawks fan that has a mildly contemptuous respect for Frank Martin’s K-State program. Let’s go to the screen:
9:01 – Syracuse is wrapping up their win over Louisville. My buddy Harrison (who is currently beating me 6-1 in fantasy basketball—a short-lived fluke) predicted a Louisville win. Incidentally, he also went to The BarberShop in Cary without me today. Point is, he’s just making all sorts of wrong calls. I ain’t mad at ya, Z!
9:07 – They show K-State dancing in the corridor before the game. They look like they’re having a rhythm-filled blast! For the 2,347th time in my life, I feel a smidge of confused regret about my whiteness.
9:10 – Oooh! We’ve got Bobby Knight tonight. The General has been crushing on two things lately, orange juice and Jeff Withey. I support his opinions on both topics. With no sarcasm whatsoever: I’d vote for Bobby Knight for President.
9:12 – Will Spradling misses K-State’s first shot. I’m putting the over/under on the number of times that Bobby Knight praises Will Spradling at a gaudy 9. The General loves his white guards.
9:15 – Alley-Oop to Robinson! The first play all night that didn’t make you long for the fundamentals of the WNBA (those girls know how to strike a triple-threat position). This has been really ugly in the first three minutes. KU’s up 3-2.
9:18 – The guy who doesn’t have 902 wins on his record tells us that Jamar Samuels three to tie the game at 6-6 was just his 9th this season. Sometimes an announcer says things that feel way more ominous than they should…
9:20 – Withey gets that “have to call it when 7 feet of gangly white limbs are unraveling” foul call. And we get our first TV timeout without Coach Knight mentioning a thing about Will Spradling. I respect your discipline, Coach.
9:23 – Shocking news from Holly Rowe about Thomas Robinson not even playing in this same matchup last year (see what kind of work you have to do when you can’t fall back on your looks, Andrews?). Would last season have ended differently for the Jayhawks if Self had been willing to play bigger, giving Robinson some more run instead of relying on that three-guard lineup that featured Reed and Morningstar so much? Couldn’t we have overwhelmed Northern Iowa with that lineup? Sigh….I’m not going to think about it.
9:29 – Bobby Knight reminisces about great passing on his old Indiana teams….I think he might be warming up. C’mon Spradling, it’s time to do something anyway! KU is up 16-10 with 10 minutes left.
9:34 – Spradling missed a three. Disappointing, but not too surprising. My friend Michael D, a K-State grad, had this to say about K-State, “They’re like a team full of me’s. They hustle, rebound, play good defense, but there’s not a lot of skills there.” Not high praise from a guy whose distinctive moment of basketball pride was earning the nickname “hustle man”.
9:38 – Breakaway dunk by Travis Releford. There’s seven minutes left, and everyone not named Samuels or Rodney McGruder is scoreless for K-State. I’m starting to root for a sub 20-point first half for the Wildcats. Sometimes your enemy’s pain is more gratifying than your success. Write that down.
9:43 – It’s a nine point lead for KU. 4:53 left in the half. ESPN executives would be groaning at the pace of this game if it wasn’t for the enthralling snippets of ”Knight Vision” keeping viewers from checking out the return of Shawn Michaels to the WWE over on USA. Gosh, that’s mighty tempting….
9:50 – Gibson scores for K-State….more importantly, it sparks our first praise of Will Spradling’s passing ability from Coach Knight. The count is at 1.
9:53 – “Spradling is doing a really great job…” Count is at 2. Far as I can tell, Spradling is scoreless with one rebound and two assists…but I’ll be darned if he’s not the whitest guard out there (apologies to Connor Tehan).
9:56 – 28-18 KU at the half. Bill Self crushes the pre-half interview by using the word “good” 6 times in an 11-word sentence. Boring half overall….Intriguing plotlines for the second half: Will K-State break 45? Can Bobby Knight find reasons to hit the over on Will Spradling praise without Spradling doing his part? Will Frank Martin kill Angel Rodriguez (5 turnovers int he first half) personally or hire a Cuban hitman to do it?
10:00 – Michael D texts in with perfect timing: “Angel needs to be kicked off the team for his horribleness. Haven’t met a Kstater that disagrees.” Even amongst the Hispanic alumni?
10:13 – “Spradling does a better job on offense with the ball in his hands than anybody they have.” The General kicks off the second half in aggressive fashion. Count is at 3.
10:14 – Coach Knight calls calls Spradling “Judicious.” The count is at 4, and for any eye-rollers, that’s adjective reflects the highest tier of Bobby Knight’s respect-o-meter. And, yes, the Knight-Spradling count has become my favorite part of the game.
10:15 – “And that’s why the ball needs to be in Spradling’s hands.” Count’s at 5. We’re off to a hot start…too bad SPradling’s missed two consecutive threes and a runner. The General’s going to have to put Spradling on his back to hit 9.
10:18 – Spradling floater!…Knight declines to praise him. If Bobby Knight is anything, it’s unpredictable. If he’s two things, it’s unpredictable and consistently dressed.
10:19 – Meanwhile, Samuels just hit a three, and we’ve got a game! Samuels is playing great, but KU is still up 32-30. I think it’s time I get my focus away from the hypnotic Spradling-Knight relationship and back to the game.
10:23 – Tyshawn Taylor gets hit with an over-and-back, and the camera cuts away to two girls holding a white sign that has “Turnover Tyshawn” written in purple glitter. The “and your gay too” subtext is pretty clever. Well-played K-State girls.
10:25 – It’s a depressing moment when you catch yourself thinking “I might need to look into that” while watching a Rogaine commercial.
10:26 – Withey! (nope, need more) WITHEY!!! The swat to transition dunk to hustle play….I can’t believe that I’m starting to think that KU has some title hopes basef on Jeff Withey.
10:27 – This game has heated up! Jordan Henriquez draws a charge on Robinson and the game is tied up at 34. I silently let God know that I’m sorry for my hubris in the first half.
10:30 – “That’s why they need Spradling in the game,” Knight gushes after the guard hits a baseline jumper…the count is at 6.
10:31 – “I like Spradling in the game. I wouldn’t let him sit too long. He adds a lot to what they’re doing.” Could anybody convince Bobby Knight that he couldn’t win a national title with five white, 6’4” shooting guards? The count is at 7…I think we’re gonna hit it.
10:34 – Michael D thinks it’s “still a little scary that only a few Wildcats have scored.” He sends this as K-State takes a one point lead with 11:43 left. I respond with, “I thought the obvious talent gap would be more disconcerting.” I only use defensive trash-talk when I’m nervous.
10:36 – WOW! Tyshawn Taylor just had roughly seven “is that really legal” moments before hitting a HUGE 3-pointer and give KU a two-point lead….Sidenote: I pray for Tyshawn at least once every time the Jayhawks play. I think it’s starting to pay off.
10:38 – Tyshawn 3!!! It’s definitely paying off.
10:40 – Withey with a tip-in to stretch the lead to 44-37….quick tangent: If you’re a decnt or better high school big man, why would you not go play at KU? They’ve put solid (but not great) big-man prospects into the NBA lottery every year. We’ve seen astounding development from guys like Aldrich, Withey, the Morris twins, Robinson, Darnell Jackson, Sausha Kahn, Darrell Arthur, Julian Wright, etc. You’d have to think that a guy like Andre Drummond or Perry Jones could have flourished under Danny Manning’s tutelage in Self’s high-low system. Yo Perry Jones, isn’t “as good as Danny Manning” the best college praise a 6’10”, do-it-all forward can get?
10:46 – “I just think they need Spradling out there….he gives some things to their offense that are really important.” Knight is going to make us sweat this. The count is at 8 with six minutes left. KU is up 47-37. I think K-State used up its big comeback push. Then Taylor gave a big push that didn’t get called, and this thing might get out of hand for the Wildcats.
10:50 – Taylor drives baseline for a dunk, and McGruder answers with a floater. Looks like the Cats got some fight left in them after all!
10:52 – Maybe too much…Gibson gets T’d up for K-State. I don’t even want to think about what the Frank Martin punishment is for technical fouls. Probably push-ups over a floor of lit cigars ( Sorry for the weak punchline there….I’m a little low on racial stereotypes for Cubans).
10:56 – Knight fakes us out by saying “We’ve talked a lot about Spradling” without actually complimenting him…The General is feeling playful.
10:58 – Final TV timeout. Michael D is pissed about the officiating towards his Cats. I’d like to disagree with him, but I can’t. It’s been rougher than the daytime shift at a strip club.
11:01 – Spradling hits an incredible rainbow over Withey to keep K-State within 7. Less than three minutes left, and Knight doesn’t bite on the Spradling bait.
11:03 – HUGE tip-in to keep KU up by 9. Withey and Robinson are both slow getting up. My season flashes before my eyes. Once I realize they’re ok, I vow to appreciate them more.
11:04 – Samuels 3! (I can do better)…[Gus Johnson voice] Samuels says “we’re not going anywhere” with a courageous triple!!!
11:05 – Rodriguez draws a charge! Elijah Johnson fouls out! K-State ball! My sphincter spasms!
11:06 – McGruder floater…4-point game. I wonder if I have any gasoline handy…
11:09 – Tyshawn misses a free throw. I know I have matches…
11:09 – Taylor travels. I better feed the cat before melting my skin off…
11:10 – Withey with the block! Thank God! I want to live…
11:11 – Taylor bricks a free throw and Robinson pulls the board. KU is up four….c’mon…Robinson hits the free throws (they’re free, Tyshawn. FREE!). 6-point lead. I breath for the first time in 5 minutes.
11:12 – Michael D texts me with disgust. “K-State had their chances and blew it harder than a $2 whore on half price night.” I nod in approval of the metaphor and the promotional savvy of today’s hookers.
11:15 – Jayhawks slip out with a 6-pt win. Withey’s getting some mad props from Knight. I really wish there was a post-game bloggers conference where bloggers got to question the press about how they operated during the game. My first question would be, “Coach Knight, did you ever think that when you hit 8 compliments of Will Spradling with over six minutes left that there was any way you wouldn’t get past 9?” Wriggle out of that one, Bobby!
Props to me on my line-setting when it comes to complimenting white guards. I’m always available, Vegas. Props to the Jayhawks for taking care of business. Props to the refs for helping us do it.
I hope the ACLU sues those girls with the purple glitter sign. Homophobes.