March 2, 2008

KU comes out swinging, KOs Cats

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- No, this one wasn't played in Africa or Australia. But it certainly felt like Michael Beasley was trying to chop into a continent-sized lead most of the night. The sensational freshman added to his legend but No. 6 Kansas shot down the Wildcats' hopes of a sweep 88-74 behind a deft 3-point touch that launched the Jayhawks into a tie for the Big 12 lead and handed Kansas State its fourth straight loss.

Hampered by foul trouble early but undaunted by his own adversity or shooting troubles by his teammates, Beasley scored 39 points and added 11 rebounds for his 25th double-double, tying a Big 12 record for a season. But the 6-foot-10, 235-pounder who steadily increases his stock for national player of the year honors, couldn't be everywhere to stop the long-range attack of the Jayhawks, who in front of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse pushed themselves back into the hunt for a fourth straight regular season title.

Brandon Rush had 21 points, including five 3-pointers, and Kansas used early scoring sprees to start both halves and behind its signature offensive balance (four others reached double figures) extend its home winning streak to 19 games. The loss was the fourth straight on the road in league games for suddenly struggling K-State, 18-10 overall and 8-6 in the Big 12, which since beating then-No. 2 Kansas by nine points to snap a historic streak in Manhattan has dropped six of nine.

"That's the difference in the game right there," Martin said of Kansas' early pushes. "I knew the first four minutes they were going to come out and hit us hard. They're a championship-caliber team and they're protecting their homecourt against a team that beat them earlier in the year. They played the way I expected them to.

"For us to start the second half that way, that's not right."

K-State looked to win its third against a Top 10 team this season, something no other team had accomplished in school history, by sweeping the regular season series against Kansas for the first time since 1983. But the Jayhawks, 26-3 and 11-3, mindful of their first duel with Beasley and the Wildcats, but armed with adrenaline from their home crowd and an earlier loss by No. 5 Texas, started cruising early and never really showed fallibility that accompanied two losses -- both on the road -- in their previous four contests.

"Everything was good today," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Texas getting beat didn't hurt our feelings much."

Beasley understood how the Jayhawks felt, though, after losing in their first meeting in Manhattan.

"They played with a chip on their shoulder," said Beasley, who had 25 in the second half. "They played with a vengeance. They played like we had a target on our back. They just came out and played."

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