Pick your cliche.
It was a business-like effort. It was all business. It was business as usual.
Using a stifling zone defense, No. 12 Kansas broke open an 11-point halftime lead to win its 28th-straight game over intrastate rival Kansas State, 78-70, Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
While most teams don't make a statement with a loss, playing the Jayhawks (13-3, 5-0 in Big 12) to within single-digits twice this season may have given the Wildcats (9-7, 1-4) the confidence they had lacked after tight losses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Still, said guard Tim Ellis, losing is hard to take.
"I don't know about it being a statement," Ellis said. "There's really no statement if you lose. We just have to stick together, do everything and be on the same page. We can't slip."
Jeremiah Massey returned to the silver-lined form he showed early in the season, when he led the Cats in scoring four straight games. He finished with 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting while pulling down 12 rebounds.
"I tried to stay under control," Massey said, "with everything -- taking shots I'm not supposed to take, going to the hole too much, all kinds of things. I was trying to do too much. Coach told me to slow down and let it come to me and that's what I tried to do."
The game also marked the return of Cartier Martin from injury. Martin played just eight minutes, scoring three points, but said he had only been practicing for two days and was "about 90 or 95 percent."
Even if it was business-like for KU, though, it wasn't an altogether easy day at the office for Bill Self's squad. The Jayhawks weathered a 12-2 Wildcat run that culminated with back-to-back Jarrett Hart baskets with 8:13 left in the game. KU's 21-point lead just minutes earlier, its largest of the game, was sliced to single-digits at 64-55.
"It was a good run," Ellis said. "But like I said, it's not good enough. We can't fall back behind that much and try to play catch-up the whole game."
After two Aaron Miles free throws, a J.R. Giddens three-pointer silenced the Bramlage Coliseum crowd -- those that were Wildcat fans, at least -- and put KU back up 69-55. The Cats pulled back to within 70-59 on a strong post move by Justin Williams, and two minutes later a baby hook by Massey cut the lead to single-digits again at 70-61.
But time eventually ran out on a Wildcat comeback, and the Jayhawks kept their spotless Big 12 record intact.
Kansas State dominated in the post, out-rebounding the Jayhawks 45 to 33 and holding big man Jeff Graves to just seven points. The Cats had 25 second-chance points to KU's 10, but clutch performances by Wayne Simien (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Keith Langford (19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) paced the Jayhawks, who shoot 50.9 percent from the field as a team.
The Wildcats managed just 40 percent from the field and wilted at the free throw line, where Kansas State made good on just 57 percent of its attempts.
"We had only eight turnovers -- that's good," said Hart, who finished with 13 points. "But with our team it's always something. If it's not turnovers it's free throws. We need to be solid in every aspect of the game. We just have to be consistent."
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, with Kansas holding a steady lead throughout. The Jayhawks got on the board first on a Simien jumper, but the Wildcats stayed even until a 10-3 run six minutes into the half pulled Kansas on top 18-10.
K-State pulled back within 23-17 on Ellis's three-pointer, but the Jayhawks responded again, scoring in a flurry to push the lead back to 30-17 with 5:58 to go in the half. A Miles buzzer-beating three-pointer gave Kansas a 40-29 halftime lead.
"I thought we played really well in parts of the game," Coach Jim Wooldridge said. "But we were behind their pace in parts of the first half and just made some mistakes. You've got to put together a complete game when you're playing someone who is playing that well."
Diarra (0-1, 0-2) 0, Hayden (2-6, 1-1) 5, Willingham (0-4, 0-0) 0, Ellis (4-12, 2-2) 11, Hart (5-12, 1-3) 13, Massey (9-13, 2-3) 21, Martin (1-4, 0-0) 3, Richards (1-4, 2-2) 4, Canby (0-0, 0-0) 0, Williams (3-4, 4-8) 10
Simien (7-12, 2-3) 16, Graves (3-3, 1-2) 7, Langford (6-10, 5-5) 19, Miles (3-7, 6-11) 13, Giddens (2-7, 0-0) 5, Hawkins (1-2, 0-0) 3, Lee (2-7, 0-0) 5, Nash (0-0, 0-0) 0, Moody (1-4, 0-1) 2, Padgett (4-5, 0-0) 8
Rebounds: KSU 45, KU 33 Assists: KSU 15, KU 24 Turnovers: KSU 8, KU 7 Steals: KSU 0, KU 4
Guard Frank Richards did not start for the first time in his Kansas State career -- 45 straight games.
---Kansas beat Kansas State 73-67 in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 14. Frank Richards had a season-high 19 points and the Wildcats committed just 10 turnovers, but were unable to sustain momentum late. The six-point loss was the closest outcome since Jan. 4, 1997.
---Kansas leads the all-time series with K-State, 167-88, which dates to 1907.
---Kansas State has never beaten the Jayhawks in 20 contests since the schools joined the Big 12, their last win coming in Lawrence on Jan. 17, 1994.
---Kansas has won the last 21 meetings in Manhattan, including a 16-0 mark in Bramlage Coliseum.
---Former Wildcat Tim Jankovich is an assistant coach at KU. Jankovich helped lead the Cats to the NCAA West Regional Finals in 1980-81.
---Kansas State has won 10 of its last 12 games on the Bramlage Coliseum hardwood, with a 9-2 mark in 2003-04.
---The Wildcats return to action Jan. 31 when they travel to Columbia, Mo. to take on the Tigers in the Hearnes Center. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip.
Photo: (AP/Charlie Riedel)
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