MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The first Sunflower Showdown of the season surpassed expectations as Keyontae Johnson scored 24 points, including the go-ahead alley-oop dunk with 25 seconds left in overtime, and No. 13 Kansas State University (K-State) beat second-ranked University of Kansas (KU) 83-82 on Tuesday night to snap a seven-game series skid.
Desi Sills also scored 24 points, and Nae’Qwan Tomlin had 15 points, and 10 boards as the Wildcats (16-2, 5-1 Big 12) hung tough after blowing a 14-point first-half lead and then squandering a chance to win the game in regulation.
Jalen Wilson tried to take over in overtime for KU, 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 a lob that Johnson slammed down for an 83-82 advantage with 25 seconds to go.
KU also called a timeout to set up its own finishing play, but the sure-handed Dajuan Harris Jr. lost the ball in traffic, and the Jayhawks never got a chance to put up a potentially winning shot as purple-clad fans flooded the floor.
Wilson finished with a career-high 38 points for the Jayhawks (16-2, 5-1). KJ Adams had 17 points, and Gradey Dick had 16, though both of their key players were riding the bench at the finish after fouling out.
In an epic slugfest, both teams had chances to win in the final 30 seconds of regulation.
KU had possession first with 23 seconds to go, and the game tied at 72, only to watch Harris Jr. lose control near the midcourt line — much like he did at the finish of 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.
In the most anticipated Sunflower Showdown in years, which drew a capacity crowd that snaked around Bramlage Coliseum hours before tipoff as it waited to get in, it was the less-regarded Wildcats rather than the defending national champions that demonstrated early poise and precision.
K-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.
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 K-State to unsuccessfully drive to the basket, and they slowly trimmed away at their deficit, closing within 44-39 by halftime.
Despite foul trouble — Kevin McCullar Jr. went to the bench with four with 10 minutes to go, eventually fouling out, and Adams also fouled out down the stretch — 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.
K-State refused to give up, though. So did Kansas.
Turns out 40 minutes wasn’t enough to decide it.
KU somehow hung around despite struggling mightily from the foul line, going 24 of 34, and shooting 6 of 29 from the 3-point line. The Jayhawks did it by turning around early turnover trouble and effectively getting to the rim on offense.
K-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 KU, he piled up seven assists, and none more important than the last.
KU returns home to play No. 14 TCU on Saturday. K-State plays Texas Tech the same day.
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