KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- Wayne Simien also is pretty good when the games count even more.
Simien had 28 points and 14 rebounds as No. 9 Kansas continued its dominance of rival Kansas State and advanced to the Big 12 Conference semifinals with an 80-67 victory.
The conference player of the year, Simien had averaged 24.0 points and 16.5 rebounds in the Jayhawks' two wins over the Wildcats this season.
Simien also made sure his final career game against the Wildcats would be a big one. He scored 15 points in the first half, helping the Jayhawks to a 37-32 lead.
Behind Simien, the Jayhawks (23-5) beat the Wildcats for the 31st straight time dating to January 17, 1994.
Aaron Miles added 18 points for Kansas, which stumbled into the conference tournament by losing four of its last six regular-season games. The Jayhawks will meet either Oklahoma State or Colorado in the semifinals Saturday.
"We haven't played unbelievably well the majority of the time the last three weeks or so," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We needed to come out and win this game. We knew it would be a grind-it-out game.
"Fortunately we got off to an early lead. Although we came close to giving it up, we never did. It wasn't pretty, but we had some guys certainly step up and make some plays at key moments."
Kansas played without its second-leading scorer in Keith Langford due to a sprained ankle. He is not expected to play this weekend.
"Overall it was a great collective effort from our guards," Simien said. "Jeff Hawkins stepped up, did some things and (Michael) Lee was terrific on the boards. All those guys stepped up in Keith's absence, it was definitely needed."
Lance Harris scored 23 points and Jeremiah Massey, battling Simien inside, added 17 for the Wildcats (17-12), who likely are headed to National Invitation Tournament.
"I really hope that we have earned our right into the tournament," Kansas State coach Jim Woolridge said. "I think we're right there and I hope that you see us in that tournament next week."
"We didn't feel they were vulnerable at all," Massey said. "They are one of the best teams in the country. We knew that coming into the game. We knew they were going to come out and fight this thing without Langford. We knew we had to come out and play the best game of the year and we didn't do that."
With plenty of support at Kemper Arena, the Jayhawks came out energized and built a 23-8 lead just over 10 minutes into the contest on Aaron Miles' 3-pointer.
Miles, who had made a woeful 3-of-28 attempts from 3-point range over his last four games, went 4-of-6 from the arc in this one.
The Wildcats recovered from the early deficit and were able to pull within 35-32 with 68 seconds left in the half on Clent Stewart's layup.
Kansas rebuilt its lead to 46-34 early in the second half, but Kansas State again battled back and pulled within 60-57 with 6:08 remaining on Massey's three-point play.
But struggling J.R. Giddens drilled a 3-pointer, Miles made two free throws and Simien made a turnaround as the Jayhawks took a double-digit lead with under four minutes left. The Jayhawks were in control the rest of the way.
"I thought we showed resilience again, we kept coming back, kept coming back but when we really needed the big stopper, the big play, we just couldn't quite get over the hump," Woolridge said.
Giddens finished with 14 points and Lee added 11 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who shot 48 percent (23-of-48) and held a 42-26 rebounding advantage. Kansas made 10-of-25 shots from the arc.
Cartier Martin scored 14 points for Kansas State, which shot 35 percent (18-of-51) and made 23-of-35 free throws but stayed in the game by only committing seven turnovers. The Jayhawks committed 17 turnovers.