March 2, 2008

Beasley turning into one-man gang

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Michael Beasley, folding his long limbs to sit on a set of stairs in a corner of Allen Fieldhouse, finds himself surrounded by members of the media as he munches on a bag of potato chips. Kansas State's über-freshman, the 6-foot-10 once-in-a-lifetime superstar who is an obvious choice for college basketball's Player of the Year for anyone bothering to vote on who is actually the best college basketball player, was beaten but not broken by the Wildcats' 88-74 loss to No. 6 Kansas on Saturday night.

The first question he fielded was simple. What went wrong?

"They came out and played with a purpose. We had no rhythm. We didn't play to our top potential. We laid down," Beasley said.

Harsh, but in many ways true. Kansas, as it loves to do, came out and socked a visiting team square in the jaw. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, two quick foul calls on Beasley did as much damage to their cause as the Jayhawks.

Beasley went to the bench just 2:05 into the contest after a questionable charging call. By the time Coach Frank Martin relented and let his star back onto the floor five minutes later, the Wildcats trailed 23-9, down 14 points, the final margin of defeat for the Cats.

"I got two fouls. That comes with the game," Beasley said.

But for all who want to blame those two quick foul calls for the defeat, there are two other numbers that need to be pointed out, and Beasley himself knows how critical one of those stats became in the outcome.

Kansas outscored K-State 20-10 off of second-chance points. (KU out-rebounded K-State 41-34, but more importantly, the Jayhawks grabbed 23 offensive rebounds.)

Kansas outscored K-State 20-10 off of turnovers. (K-State turned the ball over 20 times compared to KU's 14.)

A team can never control how an official calls a game, but there are aspects of the game it can control. Getting consistently beat to rebounds was the most obvious flaw in the Wildcats' effort.

"They got them when they needed and when they wanted. They just rebounded the ball," Beasley said. "I can't say too much about that. They just played their hearts out tonight."

It wasn't as if K-State rolled over and accepted the loss after the miserable start. That 14-point KU lead was just 12 (41-29) at halftime, and the Wildcats still clung to a chance of a second-half rally leading them to victory.

With Beasley on their side, that seemed possible. He went to the halftime locker room carrying just two fouls and ended the contest with 39 points and 11 rebounds. Hope, though, is fragile for a young team playing in front of an Allen Fieldhouse crowd as stoked for this contest as any in this rivalry in years.

KU opened that second half with an 11-0 run that buried the Wildcats into a 23-point hole at 52-29. The hemorrhaging stopped for the Cats when Beasley sank a 3-pointer, one of his four in the contest, at the 15:29 mark.

"It was heartbreaking. They came out, punched us in the first half," Beasley said. "We started to recover, then they came out in the second half and punched us again. It was pretty much over from there."

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