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Kansas does it again, beats Kansas State for the Big 12 title

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Prior to the start of the Big 12 Championship title game, Kansas coach Bill Self told a television reporter that he hoped Kansas State would be good.

That didn't turn out to be the case on Saturday night, and Self's seventh-ranked Jayhawks were a large reason the No. 11 Wildcats weren't.

"Our defense was as good as it's been," Self said of the latter stages of the first half. "I thought our defense, our first-shot defense, was about as good as it's been all year long during that stretch."

The Jayhawks (29-5) won their ninth tournament title with a 70-54 victory in front of a record crowd of 19,256 at Sprint Center Saturday. So the Wildcats were good enough to draw a crowd, but not good enough to compete.

"I wanted it to be a good game," Self said. "But when I said we need them to be good we don't need them to be good in the games that we play them. I didn't mean that at all. I meant that we need them to be good because it brings interest.

It was Kansas' third victory over its in-state rival this season. The Jayhawks now have won 47 of their last 50 games against the Wildcats (27-7).

"This never gets old," said Travis Releford, a senior from Kansas City, Mo. "It means a lot to us and our fans (to beat Kansas State). They have a lot of bragging rights now that this game is over."

Those bragging rights have a lot to do with the Kansas defense, especially the contribution of Releford, whose responsibility was containing Rodney McGruder.

"Rodney is terrific," Self said. "He's a great player who moves without the ball better than anybody in our league. And he gets more screens for him than anybody in our league because of the way he plays.

"He got 18, but a lot of them were off of switches. Travis did an unbelievable job on him. Travis is really tuned in. I think he's as good a perimeter player as there is in the country. I think he can guard a 1, 2, 3 and a lot of times a 4. He can guard the ball and guard the drive. He's really smart and he understands angles."

Jeff Withey was named tournament MVP. He poured in 17 points and nine rebounds for Kansas. Perry Ellis had 12 points and six rebounds and Nadir Tharpe also tallied 12 points for the Jayhawks. McGruder still led Kansas State with 18 points and Angel Rodriguez added 10 for the Wildcats.

There was a big foul disparity in both halves, as Kansas State was whistled for six team fouls before Kansas was called for its first at the 12:43 mark. Kansas finished the game with just nine team fouls. Eventually, the Wildcats seemed unwilling to take it inside against Kansas' front line.

"I don't even want to comment on that, to be honest," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We've got to do a better job of executing, screening. They've got good length. But it seemed like when we broke down (defensively) we gave them too easy layups and points in the paint. They're so good at it."

McGruder said the Wildcats rushed things.

"We've got to be patient," he said. "We can't force the game. That's when mistakes happen, and bad shots. Bad shots lead to transition baskets for them. You just have to be smart and keep poised and just run your offense."

Kansas has dominated the series in large part because of the propensity to go on runs versus the Wildcats. After a back-and-forth first 10 minutes of the first half, Kansas went on a 12-1 run to pull away to a decisive lead. After Kansas State cut Kansas' lead to three points early in the second half, the Jayhawks went on a 16-7 run to regain a comfortable cushion.

NOTES: The all-tournament team was Withey and Ellis for Kansas, McGruder and Rodriguez of Kansas State, and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State...Kansas State was looking for its first conference tournament title. The Wildcats had reached the championship game only once previously, in 2010, when they lost to Kansas. This was the 10th time that Kansas had been in the championship game. ... Kansas is 8-0 vs. Kansas State all-time in the Big 12 Tournament. The Jayhawks also won the last three meetings in the Big 8 Conference tournament. The last time Kansas State beat Kansas in the postseason was in the 1993 Big 8 tournament, when the Wildcats won 73-67 in the semifinals. ... Kansas State's last post-season tournament title was in 1980, when the Wildcats defeated Kansas 79-58.
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