Newman, defense stifle Cowboys, in Big 12 Tourney opener
KANSAS CITY – A career high from KU redshirt-sophomore Malik Newman and some stingy Jayhawk defense helped No. 9 Kansas avenge a regular-season sweep and advance past Oklahoma State, 82-68, Thursday afternoon in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals at Sprint Center. Newman led all scorers with 30 points, while he and the rest of the KU defense held the Cowboys to 31 percent shooting in the second half. The Jayhawks (25-7) advanced to the Big 12 semifinals, where they will meet in-state rival Kansas State Friday.
The victory gave KU 25 wins for an NCAA-record 13th-consecutive season; KU has now reached the Big 12 semifinals for the 19th time in the 22-year history of the Championship.
From the tip the game belonged to Newman, who tallied 10 of his team’s first 12 points, all within the opening five minutes.
But despite Newman’s hot start, the Cowboys were able to keep pace. OSU connected on four of its first five 3-point attempts, two of which came during a 16-2 run over a four-minute span that saw the No. 8 seed jump out to a double-digit advantage (24-14) less than nine minutes into the contest.
A Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and-one lay-up kick-started a Jayhawk spurt that got KU back within striking distance. The 3-point play was the beginning of a 16-4 Kansas run that drew KU back within a point, getting the score to 28-27 on a Graham-to-Mykhailiuk alley-oop jam at the 7:57 mark.
KU’s fortunes largely turned after switching to a two-three zone defense, which held the Cowboys to just a pair of field goals over a seven-minute stretch of the opening stanza.
Ninety seconds after the Mykhailiuk-Graham connection, Newman sank back-to-back threes for six of his 20 first-half points, and handed his team its first lead since the early minutes of the contest. Silvio De Sousa followed two minutes later with a put-back dunk and KU owned its largest lead of the half, 35-30, with 4:41 to play before the break.
Oklahoma State’s Yankuba Sima helped OSU weather the stingy KU defense with seven points over the final 3:30 of the first half. But a Mykhailiuk put-back just before the halftime buzzer gave the Jayhawks a one-point edge, 43-42, as the teams headed to the locker room.
Kansas came out of the intermission with some motivation, as was evident by KU’s first bucket of the second half, a Lagerald Vick drive and dunk that put Oklahoma State on its heels. After trading buckets during the early stages of the half, Newman’s hot-hand returned at the 14:34 mark, when he nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the day. That shot began a 14-0 run that not only gave KU its first double-digit advantage of the game, but saw the top-seeded team build a 16-point lead over the next six minutes. Kansas led, 66-50, with eight minutes to play.
While the KU offense hummed along, the Jayhawk defense continued its stranglehold on the Cowboys. Kansas held OSU without a field goal for more than eight minutes of the second half. Oklahoma State was 0-of-9 from the field and committed five turnovers during that stretch. KU effectively silenced the Cowboy offense that had given it fits during the teams’ first two meetings of the season.
OSU cut the Jayhawk lead to 10 points after a 9-3 run, but Vick responded with five-straight points, coming from a 3-pointer (the program-record 319th of the season for KU) and a fast-break dunk to extinguish any Oklahoma State momentum.
KU held the Cowboys to 31 percent (10-of-32) shooting for the second half, which included a 0-for-10 mark from the 3-point arc.
Three other Jayhawks joined Newman in double-figures. Mykhailiuk tallied 13 points, while Vick and Graham added 11 and 10, respectively.
With KU’s 7-0 foot center Udoka Azubuike sidelined with a knee injury, the Jayhawks turned to sophomore Mitch Lightfoot and freshman Silvio De Sousa to fill the void. The two KU forwards combined for 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Jayhawks will play in the semifinals on Friday, March 9, at 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN or ESPN2. KU will face the No. 4-seed Kansas State. Kansas is 20-16 all-time in conference tournament semifinals, including 12-6 in the Big 12 Championship.
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