LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jalen Wilson remembers every slight. Every criticism. Every chip that’s landed on his shoulder.
You can bet the Kansas forward remembers watching Kansas State fans storm the court after beating the Jayhawks.
So with revenge on their mind, Wilson and his pals jumped on the seventh-ranked Wildcats in the rematch Tuesday night. He finished with 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and the No. 8 Jayhawks rolled to a 90-78 victory that also tightened the Big 12 standings at the midway point of conference play.
“It was like a big rub in our face, them storming the court,” Wilson admitted. “I always remember stuff like that.”
Dajuan Harris Jr. added 18 points for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over K-State. They also won their second straight after a three-game skid, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses inside Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since the 1988-89 season.
“Hey, their guys are hard to guard. They’ve got a good team,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I actually thought we did a good job, for the most part, and our bench was terrific. That was the best our bench has played so far.”
Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 points and 12 boards to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades.
Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points for Kansas State. David N’Guessan had 10.
“They play at a fast pace. You know they play better at home,” Nowell said. “They started early with turnovers. They got out in transition. They got the crowd involved. They had a huge first half and I feel like we dug ourselves a hole.”
In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.
It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.
They used a 16-7 run early in the game, built by speeding up the Wildcats and controlling the tempo. At one point, Kansas State coach Jerome Tang picked up a technical foul, and the Jayhawks stretched their lead to 32-19 in a blink.
“I didn’t want to get a technical. I didn’t mind getting a technical, though,” Tang said. “I’ve been in here too many times where I feel like the crowd impacts the referees. And they’re human beings, and this is no knock on them. I just wanted them to know I did not feel like the calls were being even on both ends.”
The Wildcats answered with a run of their own, closing within 37-32. But that’s when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence, forced onto the court due to foul trouble among starters, added one of his own.
Kansas eventually led 49-37 at the break. And while the Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half, the outcome never seemed in jeopardy. The Jayhawks stretched their lead to 16 before cruising to the finish.
“I thought we had a bunch of self-inflicted wounds,” Tang said. “Part of it was the environment, part of it was the scheme and how we tried to attack them. We’ll go back and look at it.”
Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.
SELLOUT ... AND THEN SOME
For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.
Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.
Kansas got its mojo back with its win at Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against ranked teams.
Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.
Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.