LAWRENCE — For a fleeting moment — and in the immediate aftermath of an instant classic-edition of the Sunflower Showdown — Malik Newman and Kansas State fans may actually have been on the same page.
Shortly after playing the role of late hero for No. 12-ranked Kansas, Newman was asked his thoughts on the Wildcats’ last look, a solo possession by guard Barry Brown that unfolded slowly and went nowhere fast in the Jayhawks’ eventual 73-72 victory Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse. KU secured the win when Brown missed a deep, contested 3-pointer as time expired.
Newman, in Brown’s face on the game’s final shot, indicated he was surprised K-State didn’t look to go to the rim after 39-plus-minutes of success at point-blank range.
“Um, actually I am (surprised) because they was in the bonus, so worst-case scenario they miss a layup,” Newman said. “All eyes was going toward the rim — I mean, that’s what I would’ve thought.”
Brown’s 3 sailed left and bounced off the rim, sending Newman and nearby teammate Udoka Azubuike into a frenzied celebration. K-State coach Bruce Weber later said the play was drawn up for dynamic forward Dean Wade, the same play and 3-point look Wade missed at the conclusion of last season’s game here between these two rivals, but Brown never got the ball to the at-one-point-wide-open St. John native.
“We had already scouted it,” Newman said of the Wildcats’ final play. “We knew it was coming, so me and big fella (Azubuike) was already on the same page. They just took so long to run it, they wasn’t able to run it, so me and big fella just contested with high hands.”
Brown later said he wasn’t sure why he didn’t find Wade on the play but added he should have.
“I don’t know what was going through my mind,” Brown said. “Then I just looked at the time and I tried to make a play.”
Where K-State was either unwilling or unable to take it to the rim in the game’s final minute, Newman and KU proved more than capable of doing so at crunch time in game that saw the teams combine for 16 layups, four dunks and 28 free-throw attempts.
In a play designed to get either Azubuike or himself a good look, KU point guard Devonte’ Graham instead found Newman, who drove and drew contact from Wildcat forward Makol Mawien. Newman made both free throws despite an attempted icing timeout from Weber between the makes — “I’ve shot free throws a million times in my life,” Newman said of his composure — and the Jayhawks took the lead for good with 15.2 seconds left.
“We ran a little something to try to get Doke and Malik with the ball screen late, but that’s not what made the play,” Self said. “What made the play was Devonte’ driving it and pitching it behind to Malik, which forced a close-out at an angle where he could drive it.”
For Self, the call to get to the rim was an obvious one.
“The hardest thing to guard is the ball,” Self said, “and I think all teams that drive it in late-game situations are probably better off and have a better chance to execute.”
Graham scored a game-high 23 points to pace the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1 Big 12), who also got double-digit scoring efforts from Udoka Azubuike (18 points, eight rebounds), Svi Mykhailiuk (11 points) and Lagerald Vick (10 points). KU led by as many as 11 points in the second half but was, as Self put it, “awful after that.”
The Wildcats, meanwhile, were led by Wade’s 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting, also getting strong offensive showings from Cartier Diarra (18 points), Xavier Sneed (14 points) and Brown (12 points). Wade hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:30 remaining, but Vick responded with his own trey to give the game one of its 12 ties. At one point, Diarra scored 11 straight team points for K-State (12-5, 2-3) as part of a pivotal 17-6 second-half run.
It was about as even a game as one could imagine.
The Wildcats shot 49.1 percent from the field; the Jayhawks made 49 percent of their shot attempts. K-State hauled in 27 rebounds and nine offensive boards; KU brought in 25 and eight, respectively. Weber’s group had 12 turnovers, 10 assists and missed just one free-throw attempt; Self’s squad had 13 turnovers, 11 assists and missed two tries from the stripe.
And, of course, there’s the final score’s one-point margin, a preferred result for the senior point guard who recently told teammates that playing K-State is like “the Missouri game times 10.”
“It’s way better than a blowout game, winning a one-point game against an in-state rival,” Graham said. “Can’t ask for a better outcome.”
“I’m not on their staff, but I’m sure they’re proud of their guys,” Self added of K-State. “And I was proud of our guys. I thought we competed, especially down the stretch.”
Despite the victory — and the good news KU received before tipoff on the eligibility of freshman forward Silvio De Sousa, who played four minutes — it was yet another airtight home contest for a program that hasn’t seen them this frequently in Self’s 14-plus-year tenure. Still, Graham sees no cause for concern in that regard.
“It’s just basketball,” Graham said. “It’s going to be ups and downs, the good and the bad. It’s a game of runs. We go on a run, they go back up on a run. We’ve just got to respond with another run, and I feel like we do a good job either up 11 or down 11, we keep that same composure and just play each possession.”
Composure, Graham indicated, that comes from the coach patrolling the sideline.
“He a Hall of Famer,” Graham said of Self. “That’s what he do.”
KANSAS ST. (12-5, 2-3)
Sneed 5-11 2-2 14, Mawien 1-3 2-2 4, Wade 8-14 4-4 22, Diarra 7-11 1-2 18, Brown 5-14 1-1 12, Love 0-0 0-0 0, Stockard 1-1 0-0 2, McGuirl 0-0 0-0 0, Wainright 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-55 10-11 72.
KANSAS (14-3, 4-1)
Azubuike 8-9 2-3 18, Mykhailiuk 4-11 0-0 11, Graham 5-12 9-10 23, Newman 2-6 2-2 7, Vick 3-6 2-2 10, De Sousa 0-0 0-0 0, Lightfoot 1-2 0-0 2, Cunliffe 0-1 0-0 0, Garrett 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-49 15-17 73.
Halftime — 34-34. 3-Point Goals — Kansas St. 8-21 (Diarra 3-5, Wade 2-4, Sneed 2-6, Brown 1-4, Mawien 0-1, Patrick 0-1), Kansas 10-23 (Graham 4-8, Mykhailiuk 3-6, Vick 2-3, Newman 1-3, Cunliffe 0-1, Garrett 0-1, Lightfoot 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Kansas St. 25 (Sneed 7), Kansas 23 (Azubuike 8). Assists — Kansas St. 10 (Brown 6), Kansas 11 (Graham 5). Total Fouls — Kansas St. 15, Kansas 16. A — 16,300 (16,300).