MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Rarely is the term "tough" the first word used to describe the smallest player on the floor, but for Kansas' Frank Mason, it fits.
Mason scored a team-high 21 points as No. 3 Kansas escaped with a 74-71 victory over Kansas State on Monday in the Sunflower Showdown at Bramlage Coliseum. It was the fifth straight victory for the Jayhawks over their cross-state rival.
With a little more than a minute left in the game and Kansas holding a four-point lead, Mason made what coach Bill Self said could be a described as a "season-defining play." It resulted in a turnover at the other end, but Mason impressed everyone.
Mason tried to save the ball on the defensive end, then leaped over the photographers on the baseline and on top of the first row of media members before crashing into the second row. He quickly jumped to his feet and stole a cross-court pass, raced down court and dribbled it out of bounds.
"He's tough," Self said first when asked about Mason's play. "He showed a little bit of everything. He makes big plays. He makes hard shots. On-the-ball defender, he's about as good as there is. He does a lot of things to give his team a chance to win."
Mason's teammate, Josh Jackson, who contributed 18 points despite playing only eight minutes in the second half because of foul trouble, backed up his coach.
"He's so tough," Jackson said of Mason. "I've never met a guy as small as him as tough as him. Plays like that really rub off on all of us. We see him make plays like that, and it really steps up everybody's intensity."
Both games between the teams this year have been close, though Kansas won both, giving Kansas State coach Bruce Weber mixed feelings.
"We play hard and we compete," he said. "(The players) want to do well. Today we just took some quick shots. We needed to be more patient and feed the ball the right way.
"They're really good. I think they're one of the top five teams in the country. We played them both games to the last possession, but there are no moral victories."
One of the reasons Kansas State has played Kansas close this year is sophomore forward Dean Wade out of St. John, Kan. Wade matched his career high -- set against Kansas on Jan. 3 -- with 20 points.
"He's a Kansas kid and he's playing against KU," Self said. "I don't know that there's a mismatch problem. He's just a good player."
Kansas (21-3, 9-2 Big 12) also got 10 points from Devonte' Graham.
Kansas State (16-8, 5-6 Big 12) also got 16 points from Kamau Stokes, 14 from D.J. Johnson and 13 from Wesley Iwundu
Kansas jumped out quickly in the second half on a pair of 3-pointers by Jackson, who then picked up his third foul at 18:53 mark. When Mason connected on a jumper with just under 18 minutes left, Kansas had its biggest lead of the game at 47-38.
But the Wildcats chipped away, eventually taking a 60-59 lead with less than five minutes remaining. The game was last tied at 63-all.
"That was a good basketball game," Self said. "That was two teams competing hard against each other."
Kansas State raced to an early 20-8 lead behind a pair of treys from Stokes and a couple of hustle buckets by Iwundu. Kansas came back with an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 22-19. Kansas then went on another 11-2 run to erase a five-point deficit to take its first lead since 2-0. The teams went to the half with the Jayhawks leading 37-35.
-- Kansas has been on ESPN's Big Monday more than any other Big 12 school. Monday marked the 79th appearance (59-20). The Jayhawks appear four times this season for the 11th straight season.
-- Kansas has won 25 of the 29 games played between the two teams at Bramlage Coliseum, including the first 20.
-- Kansas State came into the game with six players averaging between 8.9 and 12.2 points per game, including two (Barry Brown and Wesley Iwundu) at 12.2 and one (Kamau Stokes) at 12.1.
-- Following a victory on the road against No. 2 Baylor, the Wildcats played consecutive games against top-3 opponents for the first time since the 1964 Final Four (No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Michigan).
-- Kansas State plays at No. 13 West Virginia on Saturday, the same day Kansas plays at Texas Tech.