Championship Bid Comes Up Short in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas State's bid for a Big 12 Championship title came up short Saturday as top-ranked Kansas held on for a 72-64 win over the No. 9 Wildcats in the championship game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship.

With the loss, the Wildcats dropped to 26-7 on the year and will now await their NCAA seed and destination, which will be announced Sunday.

The Wildcats struggled from the field against the Jayhawks as they hit on just 34 percent of their field goals. Kansas, meanwhile, shot 44 percent from the floor and was an efficient 24-of-31 from the free throw line.

Denis Clemente led the Wildcats with 17 points Saturday, while Jamar Samuels had 14 and Jacob Pullen 13. For their efforts this weekend, Clemente and Pullen were also named to the All-Championship squad.

Holding a 31-27 lead at the half, Kansas scored the first four points to build an eight-point lead before a Wally Judge free throw and a Pullen jumper made it 35-31. After Kansas built its lead back up to seven at 40-33, Samuels nailed a three and Clemente converted a steal into a fastbreak layup to close the gap to 40-38.

But, the Jayhawks would answer with five straight to go back up by seven, 45-38, and extended the lead to 53-45 with eight minutes remaining. After a Pullen three cut the lead to 55-50, Clemente fouled Tyrell Reed on a three-point attempt and Reed hit all three free throws to up the lead back to eight and a Collins runner gave KU its largest lead of the game at 62-52.

Two Samuels three-pointers pulled the Cats to within 66-58 with 3:16 left, and Kelly hit two free throws to cut the margin to 66-60. But, K-State could not get any closer than six the rest of the way.

The Wildcats started the game 0-for-12 from the field but only found themselves down five as Kansas grabbed an early 5-0 lead. K-State battled back to 7-6 and tied the game at 8 following a Kelly jumper just inside the three-point line. Clemente gave K-State its first lead of the game at 11-8 after a three from the top of the key and Samuels later gave the Cats the lead back at 16-15 following a trey.

A Clemente drive and runner made it 21-20 Kansas before the Jayhawks extended their margin to five at 27-22. With 1:37 left in the half, Kelly hit a 10-foot jumper to pull within 27-24 and Kansas would take a 31-27 lead at the break after a Rodney McGruder put-back was ruled no good after time had expired.

The Wildcats hit on just 12-of-38 field goals in the first half (32 percent), while Kansas connected on 38 percent (11-of-29).

Kansas State will learn its NCAA Tournament destination and first round opponent on Sunday as CBS will air the selection show at 5 p.m.