How Sweep It Is: Mason's steal highlights road win at K-State, 74-71

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) explodes for a dunk and a foul from Kansas State forward D.J. Johnson (4) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 at Bramlage Coliseum.

— Almost every game has a signature play that is remembered as the reason a team won or lost. And for the Kansas men’s basketball team, which secured a season sweep over in-state rival Kansas State with a 74-71 victory Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum, that play began with senior guard Frank Mason III on his back.

With Kansas clinging to a 69-65 lead after a pair of free throws from K-State’s D.J. Johnson kept the Wildcats alive, Mason came racing down the floor after a Kansas turnover and nearly poked the ball away to give the Jayhawks possession.

Unable to secure the steal, Mason first tried to flip the ball between his legs to a teammate, lost control and went flying by everyone, up and over the first table on press row.

His dive took out two people and three or four chairs. His back hit squarely on the edge of the table on the second row. And for a brief moment, no more than a millisecond, Mason looked like a boxer who had been hit in just the right spot and was lying on the canvas.

Realizing he could not stay down, Mason hopped back up, stomped on the table and slipped back onto the floor just in time to pick off a K-State pass and take it the other way.

“I just had to hurry and get back up so it could be 5-on-5 instead of 4-on-5,” recalled Mason, mentioning that he hit his elbow and then apologizing to a reporter who said he took the worst of it.

Kansas coach Bill Self joked that, from there, Mason blew the easiest basket of the game by dribbling it out of bounds and turning it back over. But Mason’s willingness to sacrifice his body at such a key point in the game was big for the Jayhawks, not because of anything that showed up on the scoreboard, but instead because of what it said about this team’s willingness to do whatever it takes to win.

“Those plays define seasons,” Self said. “I think there’s always something that happens in a season that can be a defining moment. I don’t know if that’s it at all. I’m not saying that. But it’s always an extra possession, hustle play.”

Although Self was unwilling to predict the future, Mason’s teammates were more than happy to describe exactly what they thought about Mason’s monster effort.

“So tough,” said freshman Josh Jackson, who finished with 18 points. “I’ve never met a guy as small as him as tough as him. Plays like that really tend to rub off on all of us. We see him make a play like that it really makes everybody step up the intensity.”

Added junior guard Devonte’ Graham: “That’s what wins games. That was a huge play. When he does it, it kind of pumps energy through the team, you know, your best player diving for loose balls and stuff like that. It makes you want to do it.... He’s a competitor and he wants to win bad. Plays like that show it.”

Related document

Box score: Kansas 74, Kansas State 71 ( .PDF )

Of course, so, too, did Mason’s game-high 21 points, three assists and two steals in 38 minutes. Five of those points came at the free throw line in the game’s final minutes, where Mason helped secure the victory for Kansas (21-3 overall, 9-2 Big 12) in a more tangible way.

When the Jayhawks finally were able to exhale, it was Mason who walked off the floor with his arms flexed and two fists in the air. The only thing that carried more power than that image were the high fives Mason was handing out to teammates in the huddle.

“We haven’t lost two in a row since 2013,” said Mason, who even posed for a postgame photo with a few K-State fans after the victory. “Not that that matters, but we just wanted to come here and play aggressive and play with a lot of pride and give ourselves the best chance to win.”

Podcast

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on Frank Mason's hustle, Jayhawks feeding off K-State crowd

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self speaks with the media following the Jayhawks' 74-71 Big Monday victory at Kansas State.

Listen to episode

Early on, it did not look as if the Jayhawks would do that. Buoyed by its rocking home crowd, Kansas State (16-8, 5-6) raced out to a 20-8 lead in the first few minutes and forced KU into several mistakes.

Self called timeout following the Wildcats’ third transition layup in a four-possession stretch and the Jayhawks responded with a 14-4 run to trim the KSU lead to 24-22 with 7:42 to play in the first half.

That run, which included a 7-0 spurt, featured four points in the paint from sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr., four points from Jackson — two off of a steal and two-handed slam — and 3-pointers from Mason and Svi Mykhailiuk.

KU’s ability to find the bottom of the net on offense slowed K-State’s offensive attack and allowed the KU defense to get set and grind out stops.

“We were ahead 14 at half the other day, too,” said Self, referencing his team’s fall-from-in-front loss to Iowa State. “Being down 12 is no way you want to start in an atmosphere like this.... I think our guys relaxed and played after that.”

After opening the half shooting 71.4 percent from the floor, the Wildcats finished the half shooting just 13-of-34 from the floor for a mark of 38.2 percent. Kansas, meanwhile, hit 16-of-33 first-half field goals (including 4-of-10 from 3-point range) for 48.5 percent.

A good chunk of those came from Jackson, who led the Jayhawks with 11 points in the first half. Jackson’s ability to attack the paint helped Kansas close the half on a 29-15 run to take a 37-35 lead into the locker room.

That run was 29-11 and KU led 37-31 with just over a minute remaining in the first half, but K-State got a big 3-pointer from Kamau Stokes and a free throw from Wesley Iwundu to trim KU’s lead to two.

KU opened the second half with a 10-3 run to build a 47-38 lead and trailed just once — 60-59 with 4:42 remaining — the rest of the way.

With KU clinging to a lead that felt equal parts substantial and vulnerable, the Wildcats kept charging and appeared to get stronger and give even more effort as the game wore down.

Mason put the Jayhawks back in front for good with a pair of free throws with 4:21 to play and added a jumper at 3:14 to put Kansas up three. K-State sophomore Dean Wade (20 points, six rebounds, four assists) tied the game 23 seconds later, but Mykhailiuk, the villain of KU’s win in Lawrence in the eyes of the K-State crowd, buried a 3-pointer from the corner, right in front of the KSU student section, to give Kansas a 66-63 lead.

That set the stage for Mason’s hustle play and for the Jayhawks to ride their diving superstar to another Big 12 road win.

Beyond the obvious reasons of the in-state rivalry and Big Monday audience, Self said Monday’s win was big because of the tone it set for the season’s final seven games.

“I always think whenever you’re coming off a loss, there’s a little more pressure to go get one,” Self said. “The key to having great seasons is to extend the positive momentum as long as possible, and, the negative momentum, you need to cut it off as short as possible. It’s always good to get a win after a loss.”

By the Numbers: Kansas 74, Kansas State 71.

By the Numbers: Kansas 74, Kansas State 71.

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Kansas State


Comments

Marius Rowlanski

A total team effort. Great job Jayhawks!

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Mike Riches

Fantastic win! #13 is getting closer and closer! We need to take care of business in Lubbock, and not look past Tech, with two big games coming up next week.

At this point, I wouldn't mind if we lose the first game in the Big 12 tournament. Even if it costs us a 1 seed, the tournament doesn't mean much anyway (especially if we win the conference) and I think this year our rotation could really use the extra rest. As long as we're in the Midwest region, I don't think it matters if we're a 1 or 2 seed, and the extra rest could help us when it really matters.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Mike Kendall

I had said that this was a must win in the Doom and they came through. Rest boys, please get some rest. Then, play well at Lubbock. RCJH.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Jay Scott

The Jayhawks still have a better record at Bramlage than KSU. Weber, and whoever replaces him, and the coach after that, will need a Jim Boeheim type parade of home cupcakes in the non-conference to catch up.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Bryce Landon

I'm guessing Weber will be replaced by the end of this season.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Bryce Landon

Whatever Bill Self said in the timeout after Kansas fell behind 20-8, I hope he has a stash of more of that. He followed up one of his worst coaching jobs ever with one of his best coaching jobs ever, in my opinion. He got the team to play 10 minutes of the best defense we've seen out of KU all year to close the first half, and then he got them to play ugly, grind-it-out basketball that wears down the other team.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Harlan Hobbs

I understand your sentiment about the Big 12 tournament, Mike. However, I can assure you that is not the way that Coach Self and the team think. They take such pride in winning, and anything short of a full effort is just not in their DNA.

We've been in this situation before, so they will be ready to play.

As for Coach Weber, I'll be a contrarian and predict that he continues. He does get a lot out of his players who just aren't the caliber of what KU can recruit. It's kind of the reversal of football, although hopefully we are gaining.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Mike Riches

I totally agree that coaches and players would never approach a game with anything less than 100% intention to win (at least this coach and these players). And personally I love conference tournaments in general, in that we as fans get to see some exceptional games back to back to back. And I'm partial to the idea that a Cinderella can get on a hot streak and make the NCAA's by winning their tournament. But I've long maintained that for top tier teams, the conference tournament doesn't mean much. For Kansas, we often don't have much to gain, and a lot to lose (injury, fatigue, etc.) For that reason, if our guys give a great effort and were to still lose early in the tournament, I just wouldn't be too disappointed...

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Michael Sillman

Great win but we need to find a way to reduce Mason's minutes. As the color team pointed out he looks exhausted even though he can crank it up when needed.

Mason is making some uncharacteristic turnovers and I feel playing tired raises the risk of injury. Besides that the team needs to learn to play without him on the floor. He's become their security blanket.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Chad Smith

If somehow we can wrap up a conference title with 2-3 games left, id love for frank to rest and/or play less minutes. I dont see that happening though.

As far as the tourney goes, being in the midwest is the goal. But the tourney committee owes us nothing. And with their "snake" style seeding system, anything short of a conference title and a win or two in the conference tourney, we might get shipped off as a 2 seed to the west or south or something stupid like that.

The goal should be a #1 in the midwest where we could play at tulsa and then allen east in KC in the regional. Thats a nice path.

Based on this, i would say frank isnt getting any extra rest, we will need him to make all this come true im guessing.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Harlan Hobbs

I agree Chad. Although the NCAA put us as the #1 seed in the West back in 2007 and put UCLA as #2 in that regional with the Regional Finals in California, I don't expect us to be in the Midwest region unless we are a #1 seed. They won't send a #1 from another region of the country to the Midwest and then put us as #2 seed allowing us to have a quasi home game in the Elite Eight if all goes according to form.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Justin Kruse

The effort that Frank was able to put forth at the end of that game to get that steal is just amazing. Wow! I was kind of hoping that he'd pull back and kill some clock instead of trying to get the basket though. It all worked out in the end! Rock Chalk

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Chad Smith

Yeah that 2007 seeding I was sour grapes on for awhile. This year gonzaga/pac 12-champion may get a placement outside of the west. It kind of depends on how highly the committe views gonzaga. I think villanova will be a lock in the east region.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Commenting has been disabled for this item.