MANHATTAN, Kan. — After struggling to keep Kansas from blowing an eight-point lead in a loss to its biggest rival, coach Bill Self faced an even tougher challenge Monday night.
Getting back to the locker room.
After a sea of Kansas State students flooded the floor following a 70-63 victory over the eighth-ranked Jayhawks, Self found himself crushed near the scorer’s table. He needed the help of Kansas State counterpart Bruce Weber just to escape the jubilant melee.
"That’s disappointing that happened again, but we also allowed it to happen again," Self said of the fans storming the court, which also happened when the Wildcats beat the Jayhawks last season.
It was more than just a happy pileup, though. Several students appeared to intentionally jump into Kansas players, and Weber was quick to apologize for their actions.
"I love the students, and it’s a cool thing to be part of that," he said, "but you also have to be careful of making sure no one gets hurt."
Perry Ellis had 24 points to lead the Jayhawks (22-6, 11-4 Big 12), whose lead over Iowa State in the league race was whittled to a half-game. Kelly Oubre Jr. also had 14 points.
"It was really us not getting the stops we needed to get, that was the key thing," Ellis said. "We definitely knew it’d be a difficult, hostile environment. We knew we’d get their best."
Nigel Johnson scored a career-high 20 points, Nino Williams added 15 and Thomas Gipson scored 12 for the Wildcats (14-15, 7-9), who overcame an eight-point, second-half deficit to beat their bitter rival for only the fifth time in the past 54 meetings.
The Wildcats had lost seven of their last eight games amid suspensions and strife, and it appears a lock that their string of eight straight 20-win seasons will end. But at least for one night, against their biggest foil, they looked like a Top 25 team in their own right.
"Like Coach said, it’s good for the fans, alums, all the students," Williams said. "It’s a big-time win for everyone."
Kansas State never allowed the Jayhawks to pull even in a tense final few minutes.
After Oubre made the first of two foul shots to cut Kansas’ deficit to 64-61, Williams made two free throws at the other end. And when Brannen Greene scored with just under a minute left to make it 66-63, Williams knocked down a 15-footer to help wrap up the victory.
Johnson, who had played just 10 minutes total in the Wildcats’ last two games, provided the surprising lift. He hit a pair of 3-pointers on his way to 10 first-half points, helping Kansas State to overcome a slow start and cut into an early Kansas lead.
A silly foul on the Jayhawks’ Landen Lucas with 1.3 seconds left sent Williams to the foul line, and he made both shots to give Kansas State a 31-30 lead at the break.
The Jayhawks made another big run to start the second half, but a missed dunk by Ellis proved pivotal when Johnson scored at the other end. Instead of the Jayhawks taking a 43-33 lead, the Wildcats had trimmed the lead back to six points and had the momentum on their side.
Johnson added another 3 as the shot clock expired to knot the game 53-all, then scored again when the Jayhawks were called for goaltending as the Wildcats pulled ahead.
Kansas State never trailed again, beating the Jayhawks for just the fourth time in 27 meetings at Bramlage Coliseum.
"I would expect that from Kansas State," Oubre said, "that they would bring their best game."
Weber showed his team a video of last year’s victory over Kansas — complete with the court-storming — as motivation. "I said, ‘You can have your own special moment,’" Weber recalled.
One member of the Kansas State student section was taken from the crowd on a stretcher during a late timeout. A school official said the fan suffered a seizure and was taken to the hospital, where he was resting comfortably.
Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 8-6 away from Allen Fieldhouse, including 5-5 in true road games. … Frank Mason III was held to four points on 1-for-8 shooting.
Kansas State: The Wildcats won despite getting outrebounded 37-28. … Kansas State had averaged 52 points in its last three games.
Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse to face Texas on Saturday.
Kansas State welcomes No. 12 Iowa State to Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday.