What kansas state sat in a group and the head coach Jerome Tang He looked at his players, he had every intention of drawing an offensive look with the goal of giving fifth-year guard Desi Sills a chance.
Sills was scoring at a rate unlike any other game he’s had in a Wildcat uniform, making his first five shots from the ground against the second-ranked. kansas jayhawks. A 25 percent shooter from 3-point range, the Arkansas State The signing even knocked down his first two tries from distance.
But the Jonesboro, Arkansas native’s plans didn’t align with those of his head coach during a Wildcat meeting.
“‘Des, what do you want me to run for you?” Tang said that she asked to guard him with a hot hand. “And he says, ‘nothing. I’m going to defend and rebound and do my thing and get my thing, Coach.’”
“He was saying to make the same play for (senior forward) Keyontae (Johnson),” Tang said. “This guy only cares about winning.”
The hot start for Sills came during an early scoring streak by Kansas State that saw the 13th-ranked Wildcats jump to a 24-12 lead over the Jayhawks. Sills hit a variety of shots, but the first three were all hard looks over the outstretched arms of Kansas defensemen, the third of which was a 3-pointer from near the top of the arc that he tossed over the competition from the first-round guard. Kansas year. Gradey Dick. He splashed home from distance to give the Wildcats a 22-12 lead.
Entering Tuesday night, Sills’ career-high for touchdowns was 25. The mark was set in a December non-conference game against Arkansas Pine-Bluff last year while a member of the Arkansas State program. Objectively, his 24 points against the Jayhawks were a bit stronger and more consistent.
“Every night someone has to step up,” Tang said of Sills’ performance during a game in which star senior guard Markquis Nowell was held to just four points. “But I have said this from the beginning. Desi Sills is a winner. He won in high school. Wherever he’s been, he’s won.”
Sills surpassed his K-State career high by seven points, surpassing his 17 points from the Wildcats’ December loss to Butler.
For most of the night, Kansas opted to heavily guard from ball screens involving Nowell, keeping him out of the paint and eliminating any chance of the 5-foot-8 guard getting to the free throw line. . With Nowell as the emphasis on the Jayhawks’ scouting report, Sills said K-State knew it would have opportunities to contribute.
“We knew they were going to come in contact with Markquis and Keyontae because a lot of teams have been doing a triangle and two,” Sills said, “trying to get them out of the game and get everyone else to make a play. We work all week on ball screens and stuff to take advantage of that and get open shots.”
To go along with the ball-blocking coverages, Self elected to put several Jayhawks defenders in Nowell off the ball early in the first half. At times, the Jayhawks adopted a box concept and one with redshirt sophomore guard Dajuan Harris guarding Nowell. Because of that, more looks were given to other K-State guards like Sills and the sophomore guard. cam carter who helped Johnson carry the scoring load.
“My teammates found me early and just told me to believe in my work and trust my work and just go out there and be the dog that I am,” Sills said. “I feel like I was out there doing what I was doing tonight.”
Along with his 24 points, Sills added four rebounds and three steals. Twice, a steal by Sills led straight into a layup at the other end. In the second half, Sills hounded Dick into a fumble just above the free throw line, stealing the ball before driving it to the other end for a sweet layup around Harris.
“I’ve just been in the gym trusting my shot, trusting my work,” Sills said. “Now I have to be ready so I don’t have to prepare.”
In overtime, Sills was perfect from the foul line, successfully guarding the end of a Kansas State parade to the foul line provided by officials. The rivalry game saw 49 fouls called in 45 minutes and three KU starters benched for a five-foul disqualification. On the final possession of the game, Sills was tasked with guarding the face of Kansas senior forward Jalen Wilson, who scored a career-high 38 points from him.
Sills didn’t allow a back-in pass to Wilson, and Harris drove to the other side of the court. Harris fumbled and turned it over, clinching K-State’s first win over the Jayhawks since 2019 with an 83-82 overtime win in the first Sunflower Showdown matchup of Jerome Tang’s career.
“Today, to help us win, he had to make shots,” the first-year Wildcat head coach said of his experienced sixth man. “The next game might be a little different, but he’s a very good basketball player and he’s the ultimate winner.”
Sills did not start the game in the starting lineup and has not appeared in the starting five of any of Kansas State’s 18 games thus far. But don’t throw the phrase sixth man around Markquis Nowell when talking about Sills.
“He’s not even a sixth man,” Nowell said. “He is a starter who just came off the bench, really. He brings so much energy and passion to the game that we need and brings the spark that we need. He had 24 big points today and showed up, and that’s what he does in big moments.
“He appears. You know you can always count on him to have your back in any situation. We are happy to have Desi.”