LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self insists he hasn’t spent any additional time this season working on late-game situations, those pressure-packed moments that are often the difference between victory and defeat.
Perhaps he should.
The No. 12 Jayhawks were in another back-and-forth affair on Saturday, this time with their biggest league rival. It took 23 points from Devonte Graham, two go-ahead free throws from Malik Newman with 15 seconds left, and some salty defense on the final possession to hold off the Wildcats, 73-72.
It was the Jayhawks’ third Big 12 win by a combined 10 points.
“We don’t have the same teams we’ve had in the past where you can pull away from folks,” Self said. “When you play better competition, any win is a good win, and we have to understand that.”
Udoka Azubuike added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1), who beat their Interstate 70 rival for the sixth straight time and 12th in a row at Allen Fieldhouse.
“We’ve got that confidence that in crunch time we can get that last stop or execute that last play on offense,” Graham said. “That just translates to a real game.”
Kansas State (12-5, 2-3) led 67-64 with 3 minutes left when Lagerald Vick knocked down a 3-pointer in front of the Jayhawks’ bench and Newman scored on a put-back to give Kansas the lead.
It was the first of five lead changes in the final 2:18.
Xavier Sneed gave the Wildcats the lead with 30.2 seconds left when he made two free throws, but Newman got to the line at the other end and the 86-percent foul shooter converted both. That gave Kansas State the last shot, but Barry Brown’s rushed 3-pointer from well beyond the arc was no good.
“It felt like a shot I’ve shot before, and I shot it with confidence,” Brown said of the final play, which was designed to go to teammate Dean Wade on a pick-and-pop. “Just tried to make a play.”
Wade had 22 points to lead the Wildcats. Cartier Diarra added a career-high 18, though he was also whistled for a crucial technical foul, while Brown had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.
“Pretty frustrated,” Wade said. “Pretty disappointed.”
The Jayhawks raced to a 13-4 lead before the Wildcats ratcheted up the defensive intensity. Kansas struggled to get the ball inside and eventually went nearly 10 minutes with just one field goal.
The Wildcats slowly pulled ahead during a 14-3 run, but back-to-back 3s by Svi Mykhailiuk — the last from about 25 feet at the buzzer — knotted the game 34-all at the break.
That’s when Azubuike and Graham went to work.
The big fella scored the first two baskets of the second half, then Graham knocked down a 3, as the pair got an inside-outside game going. They combined for all the Jayhawks’ points during a 15-2 run that turned a 36-34 deficit into a 49-38 lead with about 13 minutes left in the game.
Diarra clawed the Wildcats back once more, at one point scoring 11 straight for them, and the game was tied at 64 at the under-4 media timeout to set up a frantic race to the finish.
“We’re going to be fine. Just a tough loss,” Brown said. “We’re going to bounce back after this, like our last loss. Get back in the gym and focus on our next game.”