Fourteenth-ranked Kansas delivered that statement Monday night with an 83-62 victory over the 10th-ranked Wildcats at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) beat their instate rival for 46th time in 49 games in the series. Kansas snapped a three-game losing streak and pulled into a tie for first place in the conference standings with Kansas State (19-5, 8-3). Oklahoma State sits in third place at 7-3.
"It is going to be more difficult to win the league than it ever has been with where we still have to go and the games that we have remaining, but we're in the game," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Playing a rival on national television was the perfect remedy for the Jayhawks, who were reeling from consecutive losses to Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma. Freshman Ben McLemore, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, led the way with 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He hit six 3-pointers before checking out to a raucous ovation.
"I felt like my teammates definitely got me in the zone, especially from 3, finding me on the wing and just creating," McLemore said. "They were just getting me open, and it was great.
"Last week was a bad week, but this is a new week for us."
Center Jeff Withey added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Jayhawks, and forward Kevin Young scored 13.
Rodney McGruder led Kansas State with 20 points and six rebounds, and Angel Rodriguez added 17 points.
"The only disappointing thing was our defense, our toughness and our discipline were not there today," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "I thought we would have competed a little better. It should have been more of a game."
Kansas State never challenged Kansas in the second half, as the Jayhawks padded an 18-point halftime advantage. Travis Releford opened the half with a three-point play, and Withey put the Jayhawks in front 61-43 by throwing down a dunk and drawing a foul on Jordan Henriquez.
"That gave us some more momentum," Withey said. "It was definitely a monkey off my back."
Inspired by a home crowd eager to rouse the Jayhawks from their funk, Kansas roared to a 47-29 lead at halftime. The Jayhawks shook off their recent offensive struggles and shot a blistering 59 percent from the field, with McLemore going 5-for-6 and scoring 17 points in the first half.
The Jayhawks also got a boost from sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe, who had six first-half assists with starter Elijah Johnson in foul trouble. Tharpe finished with seven points and eight assists.
"That's the best half of basketball he's played since he's been here," Self said. "He was absolutely terrific, and we needed him to be."
Kansas blitzed Kansas State with a 20-6 run midway through the half, capped by a 3-pointer from Tharpe and a steal and layup from McLemore.
"I like the opportunity that lies before us," Self said. "We have a really good team and really good players, but we have to play a certain way, and tonight we played that way."
Thomas Gipson and Henriquez, Kansas State's top two big men, both battled foul trouble in the first half, with Gipson receiving his third foul late in the half. Gipson wound up fouling out after 14 scoreless minutes of action.
NOTES: Withey became the school's career leader in blocked shots with a rejection of Gipson early in the first half, passing Greg Ostertag, who had 258. Withey had five blocks against Kansas State to end the night with 263. ... The last time the Wildcats faced Kansas as the higher-ranked team was the regional final of the 1988 NCAA Tournament, when the unranked Jayhawks upset No. 20 Kansas State en route to winning the national title. ... Kansas State lost for the eighth consecutive time at Allen Fieldhouse. ... The three-game losing streak was Kansas' first since 2005. The last time the Jayhawks lost four straight games was 1989. ... Entering the game, opponents were shooting 36 percent against the Jayhawks, who lead the nation in field-goal-percentage defense. The Wildcats shot 40 percent Monday, while the Jayhawks shot 48.3 percent.