It took a full 40 minutes for Kansas to emerge from the Sunflower Showdown victorious Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
Visiting Kansas State looked right at home much of the matinee, despite playing in hostile territory.
The star of KU’s last home game, sophomore Malik Newman, saved the Jayhawks against K-State, making two clutch free throws and defending the potential game-winning shot in the final seconds of a 73-72 Jayhawks win.
Newman (seven points on 2-for-6 shooting) drove the lane to draw a foul on Makol Mawien at the rim with 15.2 seconds to play. After making both free throws for a one-point lead in crunch time, Newman contested a Barry Brown 3-pointer in the final seconds with big man Udoka Azubuike right there with him to hinder a difficult fall-away attempt that could have sent K-State back to Manhattan victorious.
It looked as if the Jayhawks might be able to dispose of the Wildcats early in the second half, thanks to their veteran leader and massive big man.
View a gallery of images from Saturday's game between the Jayhawks and Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse.
Devonte' Graham (23 points, five assists) established himself as an aggressor after intermission.
The Jayhawks achieved their first double-digit lead and largest of the game less than seven minutes into the second half as the senior point guard made sure his team didn’t open the second half flat in a game that was tied at the break.
Graham nailed a 3-pointer with 16:56 to play and visited the free-throw line twice in the next two-plus minutes. His second 3 of the second half, with 13:33 to play, built KU’s advantage to 11 points.
The floor general made sure Kansas went to its most effective scorer in that stretch, too, as Azubuike (18 points, eight rebounds) aided the Jayhawks’ crucial 15-2 run, with a pair of layups and a two-handed finish of a Graham lob on an alley-oop.
However, K-State didn’t buckle and even took a 3-point lead on a Dean Wade 3-pointer with 3:30 to play.
Wade (22 points, six rebounds) and Cartier Diarra (18 points) had the Wildcats in position for an upset before KU escaped.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Well, it really never did.
K-State redshirt freshman guard Diarra spearheaded a Wildcats response to the Graham-and-Azubuike fueled KU run that opened the second half. Diarra scored 11 of his second-half points in two and a half minutes, allowing the visitors to tie the game at 55 on a Dean Wade jumper with 8:28 to play.
Less than two minutes later Kansas State took a 59-57 lead on a tough Xavier Sneed fade-away jumper.
The Wildcats led by three with less than five minutes to play when junior big Dean Wade hit a pair of free throws.
A Lagerald Vick 3-pinter, a Malik Newman offensive rebound and jumper and an Azubuike tip-in slam kept Kansas in it, setting the stage for Newman’s game-winning free throws.
• Offensive highlight: The Wildcats controlled a giant stretch of the first half thanks to their collective defensive effort.
The Jayhawks had trouble finding open looks and spent a good eight minutes of the opening half clanging 3-pointers and turning the ball over as K-State built a 6-point lead.
That Wildcats’ cushion disappeared over the course of the final 38 seconds, though, as Mykhailiuk made up for KU’s struggles with back-to-back, momentum-building long-range bombs.
Freshman sub Marcus Garrett set up Mykhailiuk for the Jayhawks’ first successful field goal in five minutes to cut the visitors’ lead in half.
The next trip down the floor, following a Bill Self timeout with five seconds on the clock, Mykhailiuk got a look at a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with a quick pump fake. Then the senior from Ukraine buried a 3 to beat the buzzer — making him 3-for-4 from long range in the first half. He pounded his chest, and led the Jayhawks back to the locker room with the rivalry game tied at 34, as the crowd showered Mykhailiuk and his teammates with cheers.
• Defensive highlight: Azubuike looked more active and mobile than he has in weeks and it really showed up on defense, where he blocked five shots in the KU home win.
• Key stat: K-State shooting. The Wildcats ran effective offense the majority of the rivalry showdown having connected on 49 percent of their shot attempts.
The Jayhawks had issues denying the Wildcats the shots they tried to get most of the afternoon.
Kansas State shot 50 percent form the floor in the second half.
Among KU’s opponents this season, only Arizona State has shot the ball better against the Jayhawks.
• Up next: The Jayhawks hit the road for their annual trip to Morgantown, W. Va., where Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers have had KU’s number each of the past four seasons. Tip-off is at 8 p.m., on ESPN’s Big Monday.