Jayhawks outlast Wildcats, advance to Big 12 final
KANSAS CITY – Another impressive shooting night from redshirt-sophomore Malik Newman helped No. 9 Kansas withstand a second-half Kansas State rally and outduel the Wildcats, 83-67, Friday night in the Big 12 Championship semifinal inside Sprint Center. For the second-straight night, Newman led the Jayhawks in scoring with 22 points as Kansas (26-7) advanced to the Big 12 final for the 13th time in the 22-year history of the league.
The victory gave the Jayhawks 26 wins for the fourth-straight year and 11th time in the last 12 seasons.
Coming off a career-high 30-point outing a day earlier, Newman’s shooting touch was still locked in Friday as the Jackson, Mississippi product connected on eight of his 14 shots from the field. Two of those were key 3-pointers over the final 8:30 of regulation, which helped extinguish a Kansas State rally that saw the Wildcats cut a 16-point deficit to just two midway through the second half.
In the third installment of this season’s Sunflower Showdown, Kansas wasted little time in imposing its will on its in-state rival. After the Wildcats forged an early 12-7 lead, Newman’s first 3-pointer of the game sparked a 23-4 run that propelled Kansas to its first double-digit lead of the night. Lagerald Vick connected on his first bucket of the game, a floater in the lane, to cap the run and put the Jayhawks up, 28-16, with seven minutes to play in the opening frame.
Twelve of KU’s points during that stretch came in the paint, as the Jayhawks took advantage of the absence of Kansas State’s All-Big 12 First-Team forward Dean Wade, who was sidelined with an injury.
The Wildcats tried to claw their way back, putting together an 11-4 stretch that got them within five points by the 3:21 mark. But the Jayhawks’ outside shooting remained potent, and helped the No. 1 seed put some distance between themselves and the Wildcats prior to intermission.
Marcus Garrett and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk responded with back-to-back threes, and Graham converted on his first (and the Jayhawks’ seventh) trey of the first half. Those nine points, paired with a Newman jumper, over the final three minutes helped KU get its lead back to double-digits, 43-30, as the teams headed to halftime.
It took only 15 seconds of second-half action for Mykhailiuk to hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game. The shot got the Jayhawks out to their largest lead at 16 points.
But the KU offense hit a cold patch, managing just two field goals over the next 10 minutes. During that time K-State whittled its deficit down to just two points with the help of a 21-4 run, which ended on an emphatic alley-oop dunk by Xavier Sneed that got the score to 53-51 with 10 minutes to go.
With KSU feeling the upset, Marcus Garrett made a momentum-shifting play, picking a Wildcat’s pocket after a missed shot to put KU back up by four points and get the lid off the his team’s basket. On KU’s next possession Silvio De Sousa scored on a tip-in put-back, and the KU offense was back on track.
Newman sank two more clutch 3-pointers over the next three minutes, and the Jayhawk lead was back to 10, 65-55, with 6:33 left to play.
From there KU kept the Wildcats at arm’s length, connecting on 10-of-12 free throws in the final 4:08 to salt away the win.
In addition to Newman’s 22 points, three teammates joined him in double-figure scoring. Devonte’ Graham tallied 15 points and eight assists, Mykhailiuk went for 12 points, all of which came from 3-point range, and Lagerald Vick added 10 points.
The Jayhawks ended the game with 11 3-pointers, one shy of the program record for a Big 12 tournament game, while Kansas State was held to just two threes, its fewest of the season.
Kansas will play in its 21st overall conference tournament title, including its 13th in the Big 12 era, when it takes on the winner of No. 2 seed-Texas Tech and No. 3-seed West Virginia. Kansas has won 14 conference postseason tournament titles and has a 14-6 championship game record. In the Big 12, KU is 10-2 in title games with its last championship in 2016. The Big 12 Championship final is slated for Saturday, March 10 at 5 p.m., and will be broadcast on ESPN.
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