MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State coach Jerome Tang grabbed a microphone and stood amid a sea of purple, moments after delirious fans had flooded the floor to celebrate the No. 13 Wildcats’ 83-82 overtime win over second-ranked Kansas.
“You have one court-storming,” the Wildcats’ first-year coach told them over the din. “After this, we expect to win.”
Expectations are sure to soar in the Little Apple now.
After blowing a 14-point first-half lead, the Wildcats responded to every haymaker Kansas threw down the stretch. And when their game went to overtime, and players kept fouling out, Keyontae Johnson delivered for Kansas State, throwing down a go-ahead alley-oop dunk with 25 seconds left that ultimately proved to be the difference.
“In order to elevate,” Johnson said later, “we have to beat teams like Kansas.”
Johnson and Desi Sills finished with 24 points apiece, and Nae’Qwan Tomlin had 15 points and 10 boards, as the Wildcats (16-2, 5-1 Big 12) bounced back from a blowout loss to TCU by beating the Jayhawks for the first time since Feb 5, 2019.
Jalen Wilson tried to take over in overtime for Kansas, converting a three-point play, knocking down a 3-pointer and making a pair of free throws for an 82-80 lead with just over a minute to go. But after Johnson made a free throw at the other end, Wilson missed a deep 3-pointer as the shot-clock expired to give the Wildcats another chance.
After a timeout, Markquis Nowell threw the lob that Johnson slammed down for an 83-82 advantage.
Kansas (16-2, 5-1) also called a timeout to set up its own finishing play, but normally sure-handed Dajuan Harris Jr. lost the ball in traffic, and the Jayhawks never got a chance to put up a potentially winning shot.
“If you told me we’d have the ball with a chance to win twice, that’s something I’d probably sell out for,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “That last possession is one possession I probably wish we could take back.”
Wilson played all 45 minutes and finished with a career-high 38 points for the Jayhawks. KJ Adams had 17 points and Gradey Dick had 16, though both of the key players were riding the bench at the finish after fouling out.
Both teams had chances to win in the final 30 seconds of regulation.
Kansas had possession first with 23 seconds to go and the game tied at 72, only to watch Harris lose control near the midcourt line – much like he did at the finish to overtime. The Wildcats grabbed the loose ball and pitched it ahead to Johnson, but the star forward missed a wild shot at the rim just before the buzzer sounded.
Johnson wouldn’t miss when he got another winning chance in overtime.
It was the most anticipated Sunflower Showdown in years, drawing a capacity crowd that snaked around Bramlage Coliseum hours before tipoff as it waited to get in. and it was the less-regarded Wildcats rather than the defending national champions that demonstrated early poise and precision.
Kansas State made its first five 3-pointers and shot 52% from the field in the first half. It stuffed Wilson, the Big 12’s top scorer, three times before he made a basket. And at one point, the Wildcats led by as many as 14 points.
“They were shooting lights-out,” Adams said.
Yet there’s a reason the Jayhawks entered the night 29-5 in Bramlage Coliseum.
They always seem to deal with the pressure there.
Wilson finally got on track, scoring 12 in the first half, and Adams found success with floaters in the lane, pouring in 15 by the break. The Jayhawks eventually closed down the perimeter, forcing Kansas State to unsuccessfully drive to the basket, and they slowly trimmed away at their deficit, closing within 44-39 by halftime.
Despite foul trouble, the Jayhawks eventually made it all the way back, taking their first lead since the opening minutes at 59-57 with just under 8 minutes to go. But neither team was willing to give up down the stretch.
That’s why 40 minutes wasn’t enough to decide it.
“The great thing about basketball is we’ll have another game in two days, three days. We can’t dwell on this,” Wilson said quietly. “We have another good team coming up and we’ll see them again. That’s the beauty of the Big 12.”
Kansas hung around despite foul trouble, going 24 of 34 on free throws and shooting 6 of 29 from the 3-point arc. The Jayhawks did it by turning around early turnover trouble and effectively getting to the rim on offense, though they weren’t able to do that given one last chance in overtime.
Kansas State relies heavily on Nowell to make things happen, particularly on offense, and his worst games have led to losses. He was held to 13 points by Butler and committed five turnovers against TCU. But despite scoring just four points against Kansas, he piled up seven assists with none more important than the last.
Kansas returns home to play No. 14 TCU on Saturday. Kansas State plays Texas Tech the same day.