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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Kansas 59, Kansas State 55

By Jason King

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- A few quick thoughts from Kansas' 59-55 victory over Kansas State on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum.

Overview: Kansas' domination of Kansas State continues. Travis Releford scored 12 points, and Jeff Withey added 11 points and 10 rebounds to lead the No. 3 Jayhawks past the 11th-ranked Wildcats in Manhattan. The victory upped KU's record to 23-2 at Bramlage Coliseum, an amazing feat considering the boisterous crowds that always show up in hopes of seeing K-State upset its nemesis.

At 17-1 overall and 5-0 in league play, Kansas is now the lone unbeaten team in Big 12 play. Kansas State, which saw its eight-game winning streak snapped, fell to 15-3 and 4-1.

The victory was the first for KU against K-State since Bruce Weber took over for Frank Martin in Manhattan last spring. Weber and Kansas' Bill Self have a history, as Weber took over for Self at Illinois after Self was hired at KU in 2003. Weber led a team comprised mainly of Self's former players to the NCAA title game in 2005. He was fired at Illinois after last season.

Kansas State trailed by as many as 10 after intermission, but the Wildcats made it a one-possession game on a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Shane Southwell. The basket made it 56-53 with 38 seconds remaining. The Wildcats then fouled KU's Naadir Tharpe with 22.6 seconds left. Tharpe, a reserve guard, made both free throws to put KU back up 58-53. Kansas State turned the ball over on its next possession, and it was all but over after that.

Turning point: KU led 39-30 early in the second half, but the Wildcats continued to claw. A basket by Southwell pulled K-State within five, 48-43, but KU's Ben McLemore (11 points) made back-to-back shots -- a 3-pointer and an 18-footer -- to give the Jayhawks a 53-43 lead with 6:50 left. Kansas State never could quite recover.

Star of the game: Kansas' Withey. K-State's Southwell led all scorers with 19 points. Rodney McGruder (13 points) and Angel Rodriguez (12) also scored in double figures for the Wildcats.

Key stat: K-State took a season-high 29 shots from beyond the 3-point line Tuesday, connecting on only nine of them. Five of the makes were by Southwell.

Observations: I've said this before and I'll say it again. Bramlage Coliseum, which is also known as the Octagon of Doom, is one of the toughest places to play in the country when it's full. The students are seated at midcourt, across from the team benches, and rarely do you see any of them on their behinds. They basically go ballistic for the entire game -- and so do many of the "adults" in the crowd. Kansas will not face a more difficult road environment in its quest for a ninth straight Big 12 title. If K-State continues to draw this kind of support at home, there's no reason it can't finish second in the conference standings and get a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

Up next: Kansas State plays at Iowa State on Saturday. The Wildcats have won five of their past six games in Ames, but the past five contests have been decided by four points or fewer. Kansas hosts Oklahoma.