MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Kansas State’s Will Spradling remembers beating Kansas back in 2011, how the students flooded out of the stands in Bramlage Coliseum and joined in a merry celebration at midcourt.
He ought to remember Monday night just as vividly.
The senior guard scored 15 points and was instrumental in holding his young team together down the stretch, helping the Wildcats upend the No. 7 Jayhawks 85-82 in overtime.
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”I’ve played in this game three times now,” Spradling said of the annual Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan, which Kansas State had won just twice in 25 tries in Bramlage.
”People were asking me if I’d be nervous today, and really I wasn’t nervous at all, until I got into the gym,” Spradling said. ”But I came out ready to play.”
So did the rest of the Wildcats, who blew a nine-point lead with less than 2 minutes left in regulation, but persevered in overtime to pick up another signature victory.
And just like they did three years ago, all those students flooded the court to celebrate.
”I couldn’t be more proud of our guys, so happy for them, the seniors,” said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, who’d never beaten the Jayhawks in five tries. ”We’ve talked about leaving a legacy, and to get this on their resume, for the rest of their life, they can remember this.”
Marcus Foster scored 20 points to lead the Wildcats (17-7, 7-4 Big 12), despite turning his ankle in the second half and needing a walking boot for the post-game news conference.
”Marcus is Marcus,” Weber said of the freshman. ”He hit a lot of big shots.”
So did Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who scored 16 points. It was his putback off his own miss with 6.9 seconds left that forced overtime – only for the Wildcats to answer the call.
”Give them credit though,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. ”That’s kind of deflating the way we came back against them, and they came back in overtime.”
Perry Ellis finished with 19 points for the Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2), while Naadir Tharpe added 13 and Brannen Greene scored 10, making two key baskets near the end of regulation.
”I thought momentum was on our side,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Tarik Black even scored the opening basket of overtime, but every time the Jayhawks tried to build a lead, the Wildcats had an answer – a three-point play by Foster, a free throw by Omari Lawrence, or a big putback from unheralded big man D.J. Johnson, who had nine points.
”We felt good. We felt energized,” Ellis said. ”We just couldn’t get no stops. We couldn’t get no stops in the second half and overtime.”
Still, it wasn’t over until Foster’s two free throws with 21.9 seconds left gave Kansas State an 83-79 lead, and Wiggins missed a 3-pointer at the other end. Black missed another shot, and the Wildcats finally corralled the rebound, allowing time to run out.
”If we lost,” Weber said, ”it would have been a heartbreaker.”
Unlike the first meeting in January, when the Jayhawks raced out to a big lead and simply nursed it through the second half, the rivals played to a draw Monday night.
Kansas State surged to an early lead thanks to some poor shooting by the Jayhawks, only to go into a slump of its own. Both teams eventually got into foul trouble as the game began to resemble an old Big Eight tussle, and the result was a 29-29 halftime tie.
In fact, there may have been more bodies on the court than baskets made, and the Jayhawks’ Black even had to limp off after twisting his ankle while going up for a rebound.
The angst reached a crescendo midway through the second half, when Thomas Gipson of the Wildcats and Kansas guard Frank Mason got into a shoving match. Both were given technical fouls.
Kansas was already playing without reserve forward Jamari Traylor, whom Self sat for disciplinary reasons. With the nagging injury to Black on top of the foul trouble, one of the deepest teams in the nation had its depth tested in one of the rare instances all season.
”Both teams are beat up,” Self said afterward.
After taking a 35-34 lead with 17:34 remaining, the Wildcats ripped off the next nine points. And even when Foster turned his ankle and briefly went to the locker room, Kansas State was still able to match the Jayhawks basket for basket.
The Wildcats couldn’t close the game in regulation, though.
Given a second chance in overtime, they finally did.
”We made mistakes,” Weber said. ”To their credit they came back, but our character, and that’s something we talked about, let us overcome the emotion.”