Kansas Survives Another Sunflower Showdown Thriller

Image by Ethan Koch

By Ethan Koch

Kansas and Kansas State fans alike sweated out another nervous nail-biter finish in the Sunflower Showdown as the Jayhawks edge the Wildcats 73-72.

The Wildcats had a chance to win the game with 15.2 seconds remaining on the final possession. However, after starting the offensive play slowly and failing to move the ball, Barry Brown launched a 30-foot fade away three that missed, leaving Kansas State fans empty and disappointed.

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber knew the play ended disastrously, and when asked what Brown needed to do, Weber said, “Throw it to Dean.”

“Dean was open,” Weber said. “I thought Barry went a little slow. I didn’t want to wait that long to be honest.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t pass it,” Brown said after the game.

The final minute became a free throw shooting contest. Down one, Wildcat sophomore forward Xavier Sneed made two clutch free throws to take a 72-71 lead with 30 seconds remaining.

It was then Malik Newman’s turn to sink free throws to win the game, as Kansas State fouled him with 15 second remaining.

Newman remained steady the whole time.

“I’ve shot free throws a million times in my life,” the sophomore guard from Mississippi said. “I just looked at it as two more normal free throws.”

Newman finished with only seven points, but his two free throws late made the difference for the Jayhawks.

Once the second free throw went through, everyone in the stadium, include Kansas coach Bill Self, stood on pins and needles: “I’m thinking the clock is in slow motion.”

The Jayhawks improved to 4-1 in conference play, with all four wins decided by six points or less. Self understands the challenge ahead of his team with the rest of conference play.

“We don’t have the same teams in the past that we can pull away from folks,” Self said. “When you play better competition, any win is a good win, and we need to understand that. I envision us having a lot of games like this.”

KU rode Devonte’ Graham and Udoka Azubuike in the second half. Both of them had 8 points going into halftime, but the duo sparked a 15-2 second half run in the second half.

Kansas state immediately responded with a 21-8 run to take a two point lead with 6:58 to go in the game.

KU never flinched.

“It’s just basketball” Graham said. “There’s going to be up and downs, the good, the bad, it’s a game of runs. We go on a run, they go back on a run. We just got to respond with another run. I feel like we do a good job either up 11, down 11, we keep that same composure and just play each possession.”

The senior guard finished finished with 23 points off 5-12 shooting, 9-10 from the free throw line. Azubuike finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds.

Kansas State redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra helped spark those Wildcat runs. Only scoring two points in the first half, Diarra went off in the second half to finish with 18 points on 7-11 shooting, 3-5 from beyond the arc. However, Diarra also received a technical foul after a block by Makol Mawien. Weber said he received no explanation for the technical.

Senior forward Dean Wade finished with 22 points and six rebounds for KSU, joining Diarra, Sneed, and Brown in double-figures.

Kansas came up clutch from the charity stripe, making 15-17 from the free throw line. They shot 49 percent from the floor during the game.

With the win, Kansas improves to 14-3 on the season. The Jayhawks travel to Morgantown, West Virginia to play the West Virginia Mountaineers on Monday. Self said he knows the Mountaineers – known for their full-court press, earning them the nickname “Press Virginia” – will “come after us,” especially with a quick turnaround.

“It’s a 30 minute practice tomorrow. But we did, on Wednesday, after the Iowa State game…worked 30 minutes on getting the ball in bounds.”