KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Marcus Morris had 18 points, Tyrel Reed added 15 and No. 1 Kansas held off No. 9 Kansas State down the stretch for a 72-64 victory and its seventh Big 12 tournament title Saturday night.
Kansas (32-2) labored through a physical, defense-dominated first half and used a small spurt midway through the second to beat its in-state rivals for the third time this season. Coming off a sixth straight regular-season title, the Jayhawks will likely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament when the brackets are announced Sunday.
Kansas State (26-7) had never beaten Kansas in six tries at the Big 12 tournament and had lost 40 of 42 meetings since 1994, but had hopes of winning its first conference championship since 1980. Instead, the Wildcats go into Selection Sunday still hoping for a high seed after setting a record for wins this season.
Denis Clemente had 17 points, Jamar Samuels 14 and Jacob Pullen added 13 for K-State.
Tournament MVP Sherron Collins had 12 points and seven assists for Kansas.
The two regular-season meetings were among the biggest in the rivalry's 103-year history.
The opening act was in the Little Apple, where Kansas squeezed out a taut overtime victory that was among the best games of the college basketball season.
Part II was pre-billed as one of the greatest Sunflower Showdowns ever, the teams ranked in the top 5 against each other for the first time in 52 years. It was a bit of a flop, Kansas winning easily in Collins' Allen Fieldhouse finale.
The final act — well, barring a fourth in the NCAA tournament — was a rivalry intertwined with bigger prizes: another Big 12 tournament title for Kansas, K-State's first ever, a probable No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament on the line, big-time bragging rights.
Even with less than 24 hours of buildup, it was a monumental event, one of the biggest in Kansas City sports history. Maybe not on the level of Danny and the Miracles winning a national title for Kansas at Kemper Arena in 1998 or the I-70 World Series won by the Royals three years earlier, but a top-fiver for sure.
The entire city was juiced for it, seemingly everyone wearing crimson or purple, talking smack in the mall, the grocery store.
The Power & Light District outside the Sprint Center was shoulder-to-shoulder two hours before the game. Inside was a purple-and-blue checkerboard of fans filling the 18,897-seat arena to the brim, the roars and boos colliding in a floor-shaking fury with each momentum swing.
What swings there were.
Mostly, it was a lot of missed shots, offensive fouls and not much separation.
Kansas State missed its first 12 attempts against KU's pressure before finally scoring on Wally Judge's tip 5:14 into the game. The Jayhawks had similar problems with Kansas State's overplaying defense, managing five points during the Wildcats' scoreless start.
The clangs continued throughout the first half and the teams combined to shoot 13 of 67, with Kansas clinging to a 31-27 lead.
The trend continued into the second half until Kansas started to find seams and the bottom of the net midway through.
Kansas pushed the lead to 62-52 on Collins' half-hook runner in the lane with just over five minutes left and answered every Kansas State challenge after that to go into the NCAA tournament with a head of steam.