LAWRENCE, Kan. — Bill Self was the first to acknowledge that folks around Kansas had grown spoiled.
It’s only natural when one of the marquee programs in college basketball, one built upon iconic names such as James Naismith and Phog Allen, rattles off eight consecutive conference championships and throws in another national title along the way.
So when the Jayhawks scuffled to three straight losses, including an embarrassing defeat at TCU, it seemed as if the world was collapsing around the walls of Allen Fieldhouse.
“I think we just got spoiled, just like everyone around here does, that this can’t happen to us,” Self said matter-of-factly, “and we just let it happen.”
On Monday night, they finally put an end to it.
Ben McLemore scored 30 points on his 20th birthday, Jeff Withey dominated in the paint and the No. 14 Jayhawks routed No. 10 Kansas State 83-62 to forge a tie for first place in the Big 12 between the bitter in-state rivals.
“I think it’ll help us down the road, which is obviously the most important,” Self said of the morass, which in reality had extended all the way back to the start of conference play. “We still control our own destiny, even though it will be difficult, without question.”
One thing the Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) have to their advantage is two wins over the Wildcats (19-5, 8-3), who had used a four-game winning streak to take over first place.
Rodney McGruder had 20 points and Angel Rodriguez added 17 for the Wildcats on Monday night, but they never seemed to be in the game despite entering the Phog as the higher-ranked team for the first time since Feb. 20, 1982.
The Jayhawks used two big runs in the first half to take a 47-29 lead at the break, and then thwarted every rally that the veteran Wildcats tried to muster down the stretch.