Wednesday 21st March, 2018
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Kansas to face K-State in Big 12 semifinals

Sports Xchange - Friday 9th March, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas needed a different scorer to step up.

Prior to the No. 9 Jayhawks' quarterfinal game in the Big 12 Tournament, senior guard Devonte' Graham or sophomore center Udoka Azubuike had led the team in scoring in the previous nine games.

Using Sprint Center as his stage, sophomore Malik Newman scored 20 points in the first half and contributed a season-high 30 as Kansas toppled Oklahoma State 82-68 and avenged a sweep that the Cowboys administered in the regular season.

The victory pushed the Jayhawks (25-7) into the semifinal round Friday against Kansas State (22-10), which claimed a 66-64 overtime win over TCU in the quarterfinals.

"I had high confidence coming into the game," said Newman, who easily topped his 12-point average after failing to crack double figures in the previous two games. "Coach has been emphasizing the goal is to win games in the postseason. I know I have to be good to get our goal. I had a lot of confidence and just wanted to be aggressive. Once I saw my first couple of shots go in, my confidence did actually grow more.''

Newman, a Mississippi State transfer who sat out last season, made four straight shots as part of his personal 10-point spree early in the game. He finished 11 of 15 with four 3-pointers.

His output came at an opportune time. Azubuike will not play in the Big 12 Tournament after spraining the MCL in his left knee at practice earlier in the week. Graham, meanwhile, struggled with his shot against Oklahoma State, going 2 of 8 for 10 points, though he distributed nine assists.

"Even though we've got four guys who can get 20 or 25 any night, we haven't really shown we've had four guys like that here of late,'' said Kansas coach Bill Self, adding senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk as another capable scorer along with Newman, Graham and Azubuike.

The Jayhawks were in danger of allowing the Cowboys to gain another decisive advantage after losing 82-64 at Oklahoma State just five days earlier. Kansas trailed by 10 in the first half, but rallied for nine lead changes before running away with a 14-0 blitz in the second half.

"To have (Newman) put us on his back and get us to halftime with a one-point lead, that was big for us,'' Self said. "Going forward, without Doke, we're going to have to have some perimeter player play great, maybe two, to give us the best chance.''

Kansas State advanced by overcoming a nine-point deficit in the second half. The Wildcats had four scorers in double figures and were led by sophomore center Makol Mawien with 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

"That's tough in anyone's book in any league,'' junior guard Barry Brown said of his Kansas State teammate, "and (Mawien) was tough. We need him throughout the rest of the season.''

Junior forward Dean Wade, an All-Big 12 first-team pick, was limited to 12 points but has scored in double figures in every game against a conference rival. Kansas State weathered 15 lead changes.

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