On an out-of-bounds play from the Kansas baseline just before halftime, Mitch Lightfoot leaked into the corner, took the pass and buried an open three-pointer just before the buzzer.
It was an option a team unfamiliar with the Jayhawks, like Texas A&M on Saturday, might not have covered in game prep.
That won’t be the case on Monday, when Kansas travels to Kansas State.
The rivalry feels Sunflower Showdown-y because of what has happened since the teams met on Jan. 13. K-State lost and fell to 12-5 and 2-3 in Big 12 play but hasn’t been beaten since then. The four-game winning streak started with a resounding triumph over Oklahoma and continued on Saturday when the Wildcats outlasted Georgia.
When the polls are revealed on Monday, K-State deserves top-25 attention, and that would make the game the first between ranked teams since 2014. With Kansas standing 6-2 in league play, first place is at stake, and the Jayhawks are looking to take a big step toward consecutive conference championship No. 14.
The Wildcats walked out of Allen Fieldhouse two weeks ago bitter over a one-point loss. They botched the final possession, which ended with Barry Brown’s deep three-point attempt when there was time to get something better.
But K-State wasn’t demoralized. No Big 12 team has a longer winning streak.
Kansas coach Bill Self found himself watching the Wildcats on Saturday before his team beat the Aggies 79-68. The Wildcats were down in their game much of second half but ended the game on a 15-4 run to beat Georgia 56-51.
“They’ve found ways to win games in the 50s, found ways to win games in the 80s,” Self said of the Wildcats. “They’re a good team. They don’t beat themselves.”
They don’t beat Kansas much either. KU-Kansas State isn’t the most lopsided rivalry in major college basketball in terms of winning percentage, but nobody has more victories over one opponent. The Jayhawks hold the edge in the 111-year-old series 194-93. Next on the list is Washington, which has defeated Oregon 189 times.
The chasm has grown greater in the Larry Brown/Roy Williams/Bill Self era, especially in Manhattan, with those coaches combining to go 29-5, an amazing record considering the environment. Most places pump up the volume when the Jayhawks visit, but nothing reaches the levels of hysteria at Bramlage Coliseum.
When the profanity is curtailed, Kansas at Kansas State is college basketball atmosphere at its best.
“We won’t go to a place that will rival the energy they have for us,” Self said. “There’s a little venom and hatred in this one.”
Saturday brought trap-game elements for both, but Kansas was excellent early and Kansas State late to get through Big 12/SEC Challenge Series games that most who don’t work for ESPN would prefer to do without at this juncture of the season.
But the teams managed them without a stumble, and the Jayhawks got encouraging efforts from several, although Devonté Graham’s shooting touch, even at the rim, seems to have abandoned him lately. In two games this week, he went 6 for 30 from the field.
Kansas might have won more comfortably Saturday, but Graham missed all seven shots from the field in the second half and only one was launched from beyond the arc. Still the Jayhawks’ backcourt was too much for Texas A&M.
The Wildcats’ resurgence has been led by Brown and Dean Wade, and there aren’t many in the game playing better than Wade at the moment. Saturday marked his fifth straight 20-point game. Brown and Wade entered Saturday second and third behind Oklahoma’s Trae Young in scoring in Big 12 competition.
And in his last three games against the Jayhawks, Wade of St. John, Kan., has topped 20 points while shooting 58 percent from the floor.
In a scheduling quirk, Kansas and Kansas State will wrap up their season series before meeting all other Big 12 opponents. The Jayhawks are the reigning champs and the Wildcats are the hottest team, making this the perfect time for a rematch.