KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sophomore forward Makol Mawien scored a career-best 29 points to lead a short-handed Kansas State squad that challenged No. 9/9 Kansas on several occasions in an 83-67 loss in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at the Sprint Center on Friday night.
The Wildcats (22-11) played nearly the entire game without starters Barry Brown, Jr., and Dean Wade. Brown suffered a right eye injury one minute into game action and did not return, while Wade was ruled out for precautionary measures due to a foot injury sustained in the quarterfinal win over TCU on Thursday.
Despite playing without its two All-Big 12 selections who both average 16.5 points per game, respectively, K-State kept it close with Top 10 Kansas, highlighted by a career night from Mawien, who collected his first career 20-point game on a career-best 13-of-19 field goals to go with 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 34 minutes.
Down 16 points just 15 seconds into the second half, the Wildcats clawed back to within 53-51 on a dunk by sophomore Xavier Sneed with 10:19 remaining to cap a 9-0 run. However, the Jayhawks answered with their own run, this one, 8-2, to push the lead back to 62-53 with 7:44 to play and were never threatened the rest of the way.
Sneed joined Mawien in double figures with 12 points to go with a game-high 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in 33 minutes. Redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra and junior reserve Amaad Wainright each finished with 9 points, while freshman guard Mike McGuirl added 4 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 21 minutes.
Kansas (26-7), who advances to the Championship game to face either No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 3 West Virginia on Saturday, saw four players score in double figures led by sophomore guard Malik Newman’s team-high 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham added 15 points and a game-high 8 assists.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The two teams went back and forth in the early going with Kansas jumping out to a 3-0 lead before a layup by redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra gave K-State its first lead at 8-7 with 15:06 remaining. The bucket started a 4-0 spurt by the Wildcats, as they took a 12-7 lead after a layup by freshman Levi Stockard III at the 13:52 mark.
However, a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Malik Newman ignited a 13-0 run by the Jayhawks that pushed their lead to 20-12 just over midway through the first half. A layup by Diarra and a jumper by sophomore Makol Mawien cut the deficit to 22-16 at the 8:28 mark, but Kansas answered right back with a 6-0 run to push the lead back up to 28-16 with 6:59 remaining.
A corner 3-pointer by Diarra started an 8-4 spurt, as the Wildcats closed to within 32-27 on a jumper by Mawien with 3:21 remaining before halftime. However, consecutive 3-pointers by the Jayhawks pushed the advantage back into double figures at 38-27 before taking a 43-30 advantage into halftime.
Kansas connected on 51.4 percent (18-of-35) in the first half, including 43.8 percent (7-of-16) from 3-point range, while K-State hit on just 40.6 percent (13-of-32), including 14.3 percent (1-of-7) from long range. Newman and Mawien each had 12 points to lead each team at the break.
Senior Svi Mykhailiuk opened the second half with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 46-30 just 15 seconds in, but the Wildcats answered with seven straight points, including five from Mawien, to close to within 46-37 at the 16:23 mark. But once again, the Jayhawks answered with four straight points from senior and Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte Graham to push the lead back into double figures at 50-37 with 15:36 to play.
A quick 5-0 run, all on the back of junior Amaad Wainright, again cut the deficit to single digits at 50-42 before a pair of free throws by sophomore Xavier Sneed and a three-point play by freshman Mike McGuirl got the Wildcats to within 53-47 at the media timeout with 11:38 remaining.
An electrifying dunk by Sneed closed the deficit to within 53-51 with 10:19 remaining, but as was the case on night, the Jayhawks found a way to answer with a steal and layup on the inbound pass by sophomore Marcus Garrett to start a 9-2 run that pushed their advantage back to double digits with 7:44 left at 62-53.
A Wainright layup again got the Wildcats to within seven at 62-55 with just under to seven minutes to play, but Newman connected from 3-point range yet again to put it back to 10. The game stayed in double digits the rest of the way, as the Jayhawks closed it out from the free throw line, 83-67.
K-State connected on 53.6 percent (15-of-28) in the second half, while Kansas shot 44 percent (11-of-25). Mawien scored 17 of his game-high 29 points after halftime on 7-of-10 field goals.
For the game, the Wildcats shot 46.7 percent (28-of-60) from the field, including 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from 3-point range, and 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the free throw line, while the Jayhawks connected on 48.3 percent (29-of-60), including 39.3 percent (11-of-28) from long range, and 82.4 percent (14-of-17) from the line.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Makol Mawien – Sophomore forward Makol Mawien enjoyed a career evening for the Wildcats, as he scored a career-best 29 on 13-of-19 shooting to go with 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 34 minutes. It was Mawien’s first career 20-point game, as he collected season-highs in points (29), field goals made (13) and attempted (19).
STAT OF THE GAME
11/2 – The sharp-shooting Jayhawks converted on 11 3-point field goals, while the Wildcats managed just two from long range on 13 attempts.