LAWRENCE, Kan. – A pair of clutch free throws from redshirt-sophomore guard Malik Newman with 15 seconds remaining helped the No. 12 Kansas Jayhawks outlast Kansas State, 73-72, Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse in the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham led all players with 23 points, 15 of which came in the second half, and was joined in double figures by sophomore Udoka Azubuike, who turned in an 18-point effort along with eight rebounds and a career-high five blocks.
The win gave Kansas its third-straight and pushed the Jayhawks to 14-3 on the year and 4-1 in league play. Kansas State fell to 12-5 in 2017-18 and 2-3 in Big 12 play.
Finding themselves trailing by three points on two occasions in the final five minutes of action, the Jayhawks got two key 3-pointers from Lagerald Vick to answer the Wildcats’ Dean Wade, who posted five of his 22 points at the 4:58 and 3:30 marks. Newman followed Vick’s buckets with a jumper from the free throw line to give Kansas a 69-67 lead with just under 2:30 to be played in the game.
KSU’s Barry Brown Jr., answered with a 3-point play on an and-one lay-up on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession to give his team back the lead. But Azubuike put Kansas back on top on his offensive rebound and follow on the other end with 90 seconds remaining to give the Jayhawks a 71-70 edge.
Xavier Sneed of K-State was fouled after snaring on offensive board of his own with 30 seconds left, and converted on both free throws to push his team ahead for the final time.
On the Jayhawks’ final offensive possession, Newman found space in the lane and drove past Makol Mawien, who fouled the KU guard on his lay-up attempt. Newman swished both charities to hand KU the lead for the final time at 73-72 with 15 ticks left on the clock.
K-State had a chance to win the game when Brown put up a 23-footer, but the shot clanked of the side of the rim as time expired to end the game with a one-point Kansas win.
The Jayhawks, whose 11-plus 3-pointers per game rank among the top-10 in the nation, again showed their hot hands from long-range early. KU hit each of its first three shots from beyond the arc, helping the home side get out to an early 13-4 lead over the first four minutes of action.
K-State refused to let the game get out of hand though, much due to impressive first-half performances from KSU’s Xavier Snead and Dean Wade. The Wildcat duo combined for 21 first-half points, which included 12-straight from the pair to give their team the edge late in the half. Wade’s jumper with just over three minutes before the break handed Kansas its first deficit of the contest, and capped a 16-3 Wildcat run to put KSU up 29-24.
The K-State lead increased to six points after back-to-back KU turnovers resulted in five Wildcats points, including a Cartier Diarra steal and lay-in, making the score 34-28 heading into the final 60 seconds of the first frame.
Mykhailiuk single-handedly erased the Jayhawk deficit before the half. The senior nailed back-to-back treys over the final 38 seconds, which included a buzzer-beater from 24 feet, to send both squads to the locker rooms with the score knotted at 34-34.
The KU run extended into the second half as the Jayhawks used Mykhailiuk’s two treys to start a 21-4 run that helped them not only regain the lead, but snared their largest of the game. Graham’s fourth 3-pointer of the contest 6:30 into the second frame put KU up 49-38.
That KU spirit was also keyed by some lockdown Jayhawk defense, which held the Wildcats to just two field goals over the first eight minutes of the second half.
The Wildcat drought didn’t last though after KSU was able to respond with a 16-6 run. Diarra connected on 11-straight points during that stretch to help his team even the score for the fifth time in the contest, 55-55, with more than eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Both teams traded punches over the next three minutes with neither squad able to get more than a two-point advantage until Diarra sunk his third trey of the day at the 5:58 mark to hand KSU its largest lead of the second half at 62-59.
KU absorbed another Wildcat blow when Wade’s triple with 3:30 left put K-State up by three once again, but Vick’s back-to-back 3-pointers followed by Newman and Azubuike’s buckets saw KU down just one before Newman drained both his free throws with just 15 seconds remaining in the game to hand the Jayhawks a lead they would not relinquish.
Graham ended the contest with a game-high 23 points to go along with a 4-of-8 clip from 3-point range and five assists. Azubuike was just two rebounds shy of his sixth-career double-double, netting 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Mykhailiuk and Vick rounded out the Jayhawks to score in double figures, with Mykhailiuk finding all of his 11 points in the first half, while Vick saw eight of his 10 points come in the final 10 minutes of game action.
Kansas will play its first of four ESPN Big Monday games when the Jayhawks head to No. 2/2 West Virginia on Jan. 15. Tip time will be 8 p.m. (Central) from WVU Coliseum. Kansas leads the overall series with West Virginia, 7-4; however, the Jayhawks have lost in each of their last four trips to Morgantown and are 1-4 in the WVU Coliseum.