For about 10 minutes during Saturday’s second edition of the 2015-16 men’s basketball Sunflower Showdown, it was the Kansas State Wildcats who played with more fire and ferocity with the hope that a strong effort would inspire the home crowd and give Kansas fits.
And then talent took over.
Kansas 72, K-State 63.
In a game that featured way too many first-half whistles, KU and K-State slugged it out for the first 16 minutes and then Kansas stepped on the gas to build a 17-point lead early in the second half (52-35). The Jayhawks held on for dear life as K-State pulled as close as three points on a couple of occasions inside the final four minutes.
The two teams combined for 21 fouls in the first half and Kansas spent most of the half at the free-throw line, reaching the one-and-one with nearly 14 minutes still to play.
K-State coach Bruce Weber and the loud and proud fan base let the officials hear about it after every whistle.
The victory, coupled with Oklahoma’s victory at West Virginia, gives Kansas a two-game lead in the Big 12 standings with four games to play.
The usual suspects helped the Jayhawks (23-4 overall, 11-3 Big 12) snap a two-game losing streak at Bramlage Coliseum, but Kansas also got big production from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Jamari Traylor off the bench to help topple the Wildcats (15-12, 4-10).
KU now has won six straight conference games after starting 5-3 in the Big 12.
Frank Mason III led Kansas with 16 points and 5 assists, while Perry Ellis, who suffered a nasty cut on his head midway through the second half, added 14 and Wayne Selden Jr. chipped in 12.
As for Brannen Greene, whose late dunk in KU’s home victory over K-State fueled quite a controversy, he was held to just one shot, two fouls, two turnovers and one rebound in five minutes. But Greene did make his presence known by being the first Jayhawk on the floor during warm-ups and taking a ball and dunking it while the KSU students harassed him.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: KU ripped off a 14-0 run late in the first half to take control. K-State led 25-21 after back-to-back buckets by Wesley Iwundu and had a couple of cracks to extend that lead. But it never happened and the next thing the Wildcats knew, KU led 35-25.
• Offensive highlight: Let’s give it to Mason for his three-possession stretch in the first half that put KU up 10. Mason finished twice on hard drives to the rim and also drained a three-pointer, turning a 30-25 KU lead into a 35-25 lead with just over two minutes to play in the half. Then, just for good measure, Mason delivered an actual highlight early in the second half, racing up the court in transition and wrapping the ball behind his own back, from the right hand to the left, to go up for an uncontested bucket that put Kansas up 52-37 with 15 minutes to play. Even some of the K-State fans in the crowd ooh’d and ahh’d.
• Defensive highlight: Two big-time defensive plays by two different Jayhawks in the final minute of the first half played a huge role in KU leading by 10 at halftime. The first came from Mykhailiuk, who also hit a couple of first-half three-pointers. With K-State’s Iwundu racing down the floor looking to cut the KU lead to six, Mykhailiuk darted back in front of a pass by Iwundu and intercepted it. On the ensuing possession, an Ellis dunk put KU up 10. After that, with KSU looking to keep KU’s lead at single digits, senior forward Traylor picked up a flat-footed rejection of a runner attempt by Justin Edwards. Not only did Traylor get the block, but he also managed to save possession for KU. A Devonté Graham three in the final seconds missed left, but KU still led by 10 entering the locker room.
• Key stat: Field goal percentage. KU was bad at the free-throw line (18 of 30) and sloppy at times with taking care of the ball (15 turnovers). But the Jayhawks out-shot the Wildcats 50 percent to 38 percent, making four more field goals on five fewer attempts.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will head south to play their second-to-last conference road game of the season at 7 p.m. Tuesday at No. 25 Baylor on ESPN2. The suddenly red-hot Bears enter Tuesday’s game on the heels of back-to-back victories at home against No. 13 Iowa State and on the road at No. 24 Texas.
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