KANSAS CITY, MO. – After Thursday, just four teams remain in contention for the 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, and two of them come from the same state.
Friday evening, Kansas and Kansas State will square off for the 10th time in the history of the Big 12 Tournament, with KU holding a decisive 9-0 advantage in the previous meetings.
Kansas got their revenge yesterday, when they dismantled Oklahoma State 82-68, behind a career-high 30 points from Malik Newman.
Newman’s big day could not have come at a better time, as Kansas was forced up against a team that had previously beaten them twice this season, but this time, without Udoka Azubuike, who will miss the Big 12 Tournament due to a strain in his MCL.
Azubuike’s offensive presence has vastly improved over the course of the season, and taking him out of the equation against an already challenging matchup was a cause for concern. However, thanks to Newman’s 30 points on 11/15 shots made things much easier for the Kansas offense.
Now, Kansas must turn their attention to the K-State Wildcats, who are now facing injury problems of their own.
First Team All-Big 12 Forward, Dean Wade, will miss Friday’s contest due to a foot injury of an unknown severity. Wade played 41 minutes in K-State’s 66-64 overtime victory against TCU, but was a non-factor much of the second half, only taking two shots.
One can assume the injury took place early in the second half, leading to Wade’s uncommon lack of production, and even then, he still managed to put up 12 points for the Wildcats.
K-State will now look elsewhere for offensive production, but a likely candidate for them may be one many would not have expected prior to yesterday.
Makol Mawien, a 6-foot-9 junior forward from West Valley City, Utah, put up 16 points and 9 rebounds in Kansas State’s thrilling win against TCU Thursday. This marked his second consecutive game with double-digits, and fell just two points shy of his season-high 18 scored back on January 20th, also against TCU.
Kansas State will look for another strong performance out of Mawien, as well as their usual cast, as they try to right the ship against Kansas and defeat them for the first time since 2015.
In the two previous matchups this season, Kansas has shot the ball over 40% from three-point range, and sunk 9 and 10 threes in the first and second matchups respectively.
On paper, Dean Wade being out pushes things in favor of Kansas, as they clearly hold the advantage in guards and with K-State’s best big man off the floor, KSU’s one potential advantage gets erased.
This edition of the Sunflower Showdown will certainly be worth watching, as K-State looks to solidify themselves as a NCAA Tournament contender, and Kansas looks to solidify their number 1 seed and return to the Big 12 Championship game for the first time since 2016.
Kansas wins 76-65
Tip-off is set for 6PM, with Pregame beginning at 5PM, live on 90.7fm KJHK Lawrence.
Broadcasters Jared Lenz and Connor Ragan will have the play-by-play of the in-state rivalry. Jack Nadeau will have live updates on Twitter @_jacknadeau, as well as post game coverage right here on KJHK.org.