Kansas City, Mo. — It wasn’t always the prettiest basketball Friday night in the third Sunflower Showdown of the season, but top-seeded Kansas lived by the old March mantra of survive and advance against Kansas State.
With sophomore guard Malik Newman once again delivering most of the offense, the Jayhawks defeated rival K-State, 83-67, at Sprint Center to land a berth in the Big 12 tournament championship game.
A night after pouring in a career-best 30 points, Newman put up 22 versus the Wildcats, hitting 8 of 14 shots in a tournament semifinal.
K-State’s defense successfully hounded KU point guard Devonte’ Graham most of the night, and the senior finished with 15 points on 3-for-11 shooting, with eight assists.
Off the bench, freshman big Silvio De Sousa led the game in rebounds, with 11, and provided eight points for Kansas.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: K-State guard Barry Brown Jr. suffered a blow to the head and left the game less than two minutes in.
View a gallery of images from Friday's semifinal game of the Big 12 Tournament between the Jayhawks and Wildcats at Sprint Center.
Already trying to keep up with KU minus their best front-court scorer, forward Dean Wade, the Wildcats couldn’t withstand the blow of losing their most explosive guard, too.
Between the duo, K-State usually gets 33 points a game. Without Wade and Brown, the Wildcats definitely scrapped, but didn’t quite have the bodies or fire power to knock off Kansas (26-7).
Even though the Jayhawks sleepwalked through the opening minutes of the second half, empowering the Wildcats (22-11) to go on 7-0, 5-0 and 9-0 runs that whittled the KU lead to two when Cartier Diarra lobbed a pass for a wicked Xavier Sneed slam with more than 10 minutes left, it wasn’t sustainable.
Within the next two minutes, Marcus Garrett stole the ball in the backcourt for a layup, De Sousa tipped in a miss and Newman drained a 3-pointer to give KU a seven-point lead, a little breathing room and a bit of a wake-up call.
• Offensive highlight: The Jayhawks don’t have the benefit of Udoka Azubuike’s thunderous dunks this weekend, so for most of the night they relied upon their long-range accuracy.
The release on Svi Mykhailiuk’s 3-pointers looked smooth as ever early on, and the senior from Ukraine drained 3 of 6 from long range before halftime, as the Jayhawks burned K-State from downtown plenty (7 of 16) in the opening 20 minutes.
Nearly half — 49 percent — of KU’s first-half points came via 3-pointers.
Finally, with less than 5:00 left in the Big 12 semifinal matchup, KU converted its first slam of the night.
Somewhat predictably, it came out of a timeout set, when Graham found Lagerald Vick flying undeterred toward the rim for a two-handed alley-oop.
• Defensive highlight: KU didn’t come away with many eye-catching stops.
But Newman delivered a memorable takeaway early in the second half.
Like a defensive end pressuring a quarterback and then just snatching the pass right out of the air as a result, Newman intercepted an ill-advised toss by Diarra while defending him on the perimeter.
Newman’s arms flew up quicker than his opponent thought possible, and KU’s sophomore guard leapt up for the easy steal.
Unfortunately for Newman, the swipe didn’t result in a highlight on the other end, as he attempted a crossover in transition and carried the ball.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self and starting guards Devonte' Graham and Malik Newman discuss the Jayhawks' 83-67 victory over rival Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament semifinal round.
• Key stat: Offensive rebounds. Missing Wade’s presence in more ways than one, K-State couldn’t keep KU off the offensive glass in the first half.
The Jayhawks built a 43-30 halftime cushion on the strength of six offensive boards for eight second-chance points.
KU controlled the glass early against the Wildcats, out-rebounding its rivals 22-13 before intermission.
K-State managed just two offensive rebounds on its 19 first-half misses and didn’t score any second-chance points.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will be right back at Sprint Center Saturday night (5 p.m., ESPN) for the 2018 Big 12 championship game. KU will face the winner of Friday’s other semifinal, between Texas Tech and West Virginia.