KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was far from pretty, but the result is the same regardless.
Kansas has secured its spot in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.
The Jayhawks downed in-state rival Kansas State, 83-67, in a conference tournament semifinal contest Friday night at Sprint Center. Down 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike — his absence was certainly felt in this contest — KU benefitted from playing a team actually missing more top stars, with All-Big 12 first teamer Dean Wade out and second teamer Barry Brown injured in the contest’s first minute.
Malik Newman continued his stellar tournament with a 22-point, 6-rebound, 4-assist performance for the Jayhawks. Makol Mawien erupted for 29 points on 13-for-19 shooting for the Wildcats, who trailed by double figures in the second half, trimmed the deficit to two and but simply didn’t have enough firepower to keep up down the stretch.
The Jayhawks (26-7) rode an early 21-4 run to a 13-point halftime lead.
Newman posted 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the opening period, one day after a 20-point first half and career-high 30 points overall against Oklahoma State. Trailing 12-7 early, the Jayhawks reeled off their impressive offensive stretch, which Newman kick-started with one of his two 3-pointers in the rally. KU shot 51.4 percent in the first half and made 7 of 16 attempts from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats (22-11), meanwhile, sorely missed the junior forward Wade, ruled out with a foot injury before the contest, and the junior guard Brown, who suffered a blow to his right eye in the game’s opening minute. Wade, who averaged 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, wore a walking boot on his left foot and sported a noticeable limp on the sideline, while Brown, averaging 16.5 points and 3.5 assists, exited the game after the shot to the face. Brown returned to the Wildcat bench briefly in the first half but didn’t see the court again.
The Wildcats, though, weren’t about to pack it in. K-State trimmed the KU lead to six, 53-47, on an and-1 play by Mike McGuirl with 12:32 to play. A Mawien layup and a Xavier Sneed dunk on a Cartier Diarra lob capped a 9-0 run and made it a one-possession game, 53-51.
Marcus Garrett, who had just missed a pair of 3-pointers badly, stole a pass under the KU basket and laid it in to end the run, and a De Sousa tip-in again gave KU a six-point advantage. Diarra made a layup in traffic to trim it to four, setting up Lagerald Vick’s steal, drive and kick-back to a wide-open Malik Newman, who drained a 3 to put KU up seven, 60-53, with 7:44 to play. Newman fifth 3-pointer of the evening came with 6:33 to go and gave KU a 10-point advantage, where it hovered the rest of the way.
With the victory, the top-seeded Jayhawks advance to a 5 p.m. Saturday championship game against either No. 2-seeded Texas Tech or No. 3-seeded West Virginia, who played Friday night’s second semifinal contest. KU went 1-1 against the Red Raiders and 2-0 against the Mountaineers during the regular season.
This is a developing story. Check back later for more coverage from Friday night’s game.