KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One by one, Kansas players headed to the top step of the ladder to cut down the nets, with Jeff Withey carefully nipping at a piece of nylon then waving it to the roar of the fans.
There was no way the Jayhawks were going to share this celebration, or this title.
Withey had 17 points and nine rebounds Saturday night, and the No. 7 Jayhawks used their trademark suffocating defense to beat No. 11 Kansas State 70-54 and win the their ninth Big 12 tournament championship — not to mention the tiebreaker over their regular-season co-champs.
"I felt like this game had to be played," said the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson. "I think we fed into it, and I think they did, too, and at the end of the day, it was a championship game, and I felt it had to be played for this to be decided."
There should be no argument any longer over the best in the Big 12.
The top-seeded Jayhawks (29-5), who hope to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, beat No. 2 seed Kansas State for the third time this season. They've also won their past 11 meetings in conference tournaments and 39 of the 42 games played since the inception of the Big 12.
"I think how this season played out this year, I think it means a lot," KU guard Travis Releford said. "And our fans, they have a lot of bragging rights now that this game is over."
Rodney McGruder scored 18 despite a poor first half for the Wildcats (27-7).
AMERICA EAST: Mike Black scored 14 and fourth-seeded Albany (24-10) rallied to beat second-seeded Vermont 53-49 in Burlington, Vt., for its third trip to the NCAA Tournament.
ATLANTIC 10: Dwayne Evans nearly set a career high in points for the second straight game with 24, and No. 16 and top-seeded St. Louis (26-6) locked down fifth-seeded Butler (26-8) in the second half for a 67-56 win in New York to reach its first conference title game. … Troy Daniels made six 3-pointers and had 20 points for No. 25 VCU (26-7), and the second-seeded Rams advanced to the title game in its first season in the conference with a 71-62 win over sixth-seeded UMass (21-11).
BIG SKY: Kareem Jamar had 20 points as fourth-seeded Montana (25-6) beat second-seeded Weber State 67-64 in Missoula, Mont., to repeat as tournament champions.
C-USA: Chris Crawford scored 23, including the go-ahead 3 in double overtime, and No. 20 and top seed Memphis (30-4) beat No. 2 seed Southern Miss (25-9) 91-79 in Tulsa, Okla., for its seventh tournament title in eight years. Neil Watson's runner for Southern Miss just before the buzzer led to the first overtime.
MEAC: Adrian Powell scored 14, including two free throws with 23.4 seconds left, then blocked a potential tying 3 in the final seconds as seventh-seeded North Carolina A&T (19-16) beat fifth-seeded Morgan State 57-54 in Norfolk, Va., to win its first conference tourney title since 1995.
MID-AMERICAN: Demetrius Treadwell scored 13 and top seed Akron (26-6), its season nearly wrecked by the suspension of point guard Alex Abreu, beat second-seeded Ohio 65-46 in Cleveland to win the championship.
MOUNTAIN WEST: Tony Snell scored 13 straight for No. 15 New Mexico (29-5) during a second-half run, and the top-seeded Lobos pulled away to beat third-seeded UNLV (25-9) 63-56 and add the tournament title to their regular-season crown.
SOUTHLAND: Shamir Davis had 19 points and DeQuan Hicks had a steal with three seconds left to lift second-seeded Northwestern State (23-8) over top-seeded Stephen F. Austin 68-66 in the final in Katy, Texas.
SWAC: Derick Beltran had 13 points, including a late steal and breakaway layup, and top-seeded Southern (23-9) got its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006 with a 45-44 victory over fourth-seeded Prairie View in Garland, Texas.
N'WESTERN: Bill Carmody will not return as coach, ending a 13-year run in which the Wildcats raised expectations but failed to reach their first NCAA Tournament.
TEXAS TECH: The school fired six assistants but retained interim coach Chris Walker. Dismissed were assistants Jeremy Cox and Bubba Jennings, Craig Wells and Jim Shaw in operations and Josh Mills and Derrick Jasper in video production.
DIVISION II: Lamar Adkins hit a baseline jumper with 22 seconds left in overtime to lift sixth-seeded Benedict (S.C.) College over third-seeded Eckerd (20-8) 68-65 in the South Region in Lakeland. … Marcus Ruh had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead fourth-seeded Saint Leo (22-7) to a 59-53 win over fifth-seeded Rollins. The Lions face South Region top seed Florida Southern at 7:30 tonight.
ATLANTIC 10: Natasha Cloud scored 15 to help St. Joseph's (23-8) rally to beat Fordham 47-46 in New York and earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2000.
C-USA: Taleya Mayberry had 25 points to lead host Tulsa to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006 with a 75-66 win over UCF (16-18).
COLONIAL: Elena Delle Donne had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 15 Delaware (29-3) beat Hofstra 75-54 in Upper Marlboro, Md., to earn a third straight title game berth. The top-seeded Blue Hens face third-seeded Drexel, a 50-34 winner over James Madison, in today's final.