LAWRENCE — Kurtis Townsend and Jerrance Howard showed their appreciation for Mitch Lightfoot with a vigorous round of applause.

A short time later, Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton delivered the verbal equivalent.

Lightfoot, the Kansas basketball forward, evoked the spirited cheer from his assistant coaches on a play in Saturday’s contest at Allen Fieldhouse that ultimately didn’t count. On the defending end of a one-on-one situation following a Jayhawk turnover, the 6-foot-8 Lightfoot elevated to stuff a dunk attempt from 6-10 counterpart Yor Anei, who was looking to cut into what was then a six-point deficit with 17:40 remaining.

That Anei traveled just before the sequence didn’t matter — at least not to Townsend and Howard, who jumped from the KU bench, stared right at Lightfoot and gave the energetic junior an intense cheer. Anei, meanwhile, stumbled wildly backward into the Cowboy bench, where Boynton wanted a timeout.

The moment appeared to leave an impression on the second-year head coach.

“He was phenomenal. He did what you do when you put on a uniform,” Boynton said of Lightfoot following the No. 13-ranked Jayhawks’ 84-72 victory. “When the opportunity comes, you make sure you’re ready and you do whatever it is that your team needs on that day. And today it was just bringing energy.”

Boynton pointed to another Lightfoot moment — a foul picked up on an attempted rejection of what looked to be an incoming bucket from Cameron McGriff — as an example of the kind of mentality he’s seen often from past Jayhawks, and not just the ones whose last names and uniform numbers hang from the rafters.

“Even in the sense of not giving up a layup, the crowd fed off that, (as did) his teammates,” Boynton said. “It’s a really small thing and in some ways it’s a negative — it’s a foul; they shoot free throws. But it’s not a dunk, it’s not two points guaranteed and it sends a message that, ‘This is what we stand for.’

“There’s been a lot of guys like him (at KU). I know we talk about Hall of Famers in Wilt (Chamberlain) and Paul Pierce, but there’s been a lot of guys like Mitch Lightfoot that come in and help those teams hang banners, as well.”

Boynton wasn’t alone in praising Lightfoot’s 6-point, 9-rebound, 2-block performance in 20 minutes off the Jayhawk (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) bench. KU coach Bill Self, who acknowledged Lightfoot “hasn’t had a lot of things go his way of late,” praised him as “certainly the most important player” Saturday in terms of providing a much-needed spark.

“Mitch was exceptional,” Self said.

Lightfoot’s showing was a lay-it-on-the-line performance, an afternoon also highlighted by a put-back dunk in a decisive 19-4 run and, earlier, a tone-setting board that saw the Gilbert, Ariz., product and lifelong Jayhawk fan sky through traffic to grab an offensive rebound before being driven to the ground hard on a subsequent foul.

Lightfoot landed with a thud. Naturally, he popped right up to his feet.

“That’s something that Coach Self loves,” KU junior forward Dedric Lawson said. “We all appreciate a guy that goes out there and gives so much effort. With the limited time he’s been given this year, you’ve just got to tip your hat to a guy like that. That’s much respect. You never know how people handle situations, and he handled it the best way he can.”

Self confirmed his “love” of those hard-nosed moments.

“Mitch is always doing that. He’ll hurt somebody in practice because he’s doing the same thing, or hurt himself,” Self said of Lightfoot’s hustle. “But Mitch always tries. He always tries. I know it’s been frustrating for him; here we are, playing four guards. Oklahoma State was a better team than most for us to play two bigs because obviously even though McGriff can make 3s, you probably want to guard him with a big, at least the majority of the time. ...

“But I thought there was a positive energy within our group, and I think Mitch really contributed to that.”

Now averaging 1.9 points and 2.4 rebounds on the season, Lightfoot started the second half against the Cowboys and could be in line to draw a start for the team’s pivotal 8 p.m. Monday contest against TCU (17-6, 5-5 Big 12) at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Carry this feeling over,” Lightfoot said. “It feels good to get a win. You do it in a good team way. I think we’ve got to learn from this, like I said. If we can continue that energy we have, we’re all feeling right now, to the game on Monday, then I think we’ll play some good basketball.”

Moments like Lightfoot’s rejection of Anei — though not officially tallied in a box score — can certainly help toward those efforts. Shortly after Saturday’s game, Lightfoot took to Twitter and quote-tweeted a video of the play, adding a simple yet fitting caption emblematic of a KU team with its share of flaws yet one still perfect inside Allen Fieldhouse.

“Protect,” Lightfoot wrote, “the cathedral.”