Malik Newman, who had scored just six points in 31 minutes four days after exploding for a career-high 27-points against Iowa State, swished a free throw to propel Kansas into a tie with Kansas State with 15.2 seconds left in Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse.
Newman, a 6-foot-3 sophomore combo guard from Jackson, Miss., was given some time to think about his possible game-winning second toss during a timeout called by K-State coach Bruce Weber.
“Coach (Bill) Self was confident in me. My teammates were confident in me,” Newman said. “Everybody was in the huddle like, ‘After Malik makes this free throw, we have to bunker down and get a stop.’ ”
Newman calmly hit the second of two free throws, then — along with Udoka Azubuike — bothered the Wildcats’ Barry Brown on a last-second three-pointer that clanged off the rim and assured a 73-72 Jayhawks victory.
“I just wanted to go up there and focus like I did on the first one. I’ve shot free throws a million times in my life. I tried not to put any pressure on myself,” Newman said. He finished with seven points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Newman had been awarded the free throws after he was fouled by K-State’s Makol Mawien on a drive toward the goal.
“The play was drawn up for Devonté (Graham, who had 23 points and five assists) to come off and make a play for Udoka (18 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) or Svi (Mykhailiuk, 11 points, including two threes to forge a tie to close the first half),” Newman said. “I think they did a great job of guarding. Devonté handed off to me. I saw an opening. I just attacked, tried to get downhill and get a bucket, ended up going to the line and making those two.
“We knew make or miss we had to get a stop regardless. The big fella (Azubuike) did a great job hedging ball screen and contesting high.”
Newman was describing his version of Kansas State’s (12-5, 2-3) last-ditch effort to score and pull out a victory over KU (14-3, 4-1).
Brown dribbled ever so slowly up court after Newman’s free throws, then instead of passing to forward Dean Wade (22 points, six rebounds) as the Wildcats did in a similar — but unsuccessful — situation a year ago at Allen Fieldhouse, Brown hoisted a three that missed at the final horn.
“We’ve been watching film. That’s kind of what we were playing to,” Newman said of expecting Brown to pass to Wade.
Wade missed the pick-and-pop shot a year ago, and Mykhailiuk converted a controversial layup that beat the buzzer in a two-point Jayhawk victory.
“That last-second play is where Dean comes up kind of slippery,” Newman said. “Dean … he didn’t really set the screen. He slipped it light. There were only two or one seconds left when he (Brown) came off the screen. If he passed, the game was over with. I tried to get a high hand. The big fella did a great job getting a high hand. Up one on defense I think we did a good job of executing.”
Self, whose team led by as many as 11 with 13:33 left before the Wildcats — led by Cartier Diarra (18 points, including 16 in the final half) — stormed back, was pleased with his squad’s defense in crunch time.
“Last year they tried to run a similar deal where Wade slipped the ball screen. He actually got a good look and missed it. We were lucky last year,” Self said. “We were playing to that. They subbed. That put Doke on Wade. That’s kind of not the best match you want when they are going to play to that. Fortunately they didn’t really play to the slip. They played to the ball screen. We did a good job on ball-screen defense.
“It was going to be a two-man play with Brown and with Wade. We were able to keep the ball in Barry’s hands. I’m not here to say (I’m) surprised or whatever. I don’t know exactly what they were trying to do except set the high ball screen. I thought our ball-screen defense at the end was pretty good, though.”
Weber said Brown was supposed to pass to Wade and also was supposed to advance the ball quicker than he did on the final possession.
Self was asked if he thought K-State brought up the ball too deliberately.
“Was there 15 (seconds) left?” Self asked. “I’m thinking the clock is in slow motion so I don’t know. It was one of those situations … you remember the Missouri game here several years ago? When it (the clock) gets down to 3 you’ve got to get a shot. It was kind of one of those.”
Brown’s last-second attempt hit the rim.
“Once it got halfway I could tell it was going to the left,” Graham said of his thoughts as the game was being decided on the final shot attempt. “We had to lock in as Coach said in the huddle. Crunch time. We had to get a stop. We did.”
That was the same huddle that formed in response to Weber’s timeout to ice Newman.
“We did the same thing with (Xavier) Sneed,”Self said.
Self called a timeout with 30.2 seconds left after Sneed (14 points, seven rebounds) hit the first of two free throws to tie the game at 71-71. After the timeout, Sneed hit a second free throw to put the Cats up by one, leading to Newman’s drive and pair of foul shots.
“I thought both guys under pressure-type situations stepped up and did what they are supposed to do,” Self said of Sneed and Newman.
KU, which claimed its 12th straight victory over K-State at Allen Fieldhouse, hit 49 percent of its shots, including 10 of 23 from three and 15 of 17 from the line.
K-State hit 49.1 percent of its shots, including 8 of 21 from three and 10 of 11 from the line.
Kansas will next meet West Virginia at 8 p.m. Monday at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.