With all the iconic imagery of players like Michael Beasley and Jacob Pullen beating Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum, it should come as no surprise that Kansas State’s freshmen had their own dreams of beating the Jayhawks at home and standing on scorer’s tables as students rushed the court.
(Kansas State students toss ripped newspapers into air during the pregame introductions on Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum).
On Monday, the Wildcats went to overtime with Kansas inside Bramlage, and with nine seconds left, senior Will Spradling went to the free-throw line with K-State up by four points.
Freshman Wesley Iwundu flashed his jersey to the crowd, Marcus Foster couldn’t stop smiling, and moments later, both freshmen were surrounded by the mob they dreamed of after an 85-82 win over the Big 12-leading Jayhawks. It was just the third win over KU since 2008, all in Bramlage Coliseum.
“That moment was amazing,” Foster said. “Me and Wes, and (the freshmen) were all just smiling ear-to-ear. We couldn’t help ourselves, it was an amazing moment for us. Just thinking about it I thought it would be a good moment. Now that I’m actually in it, I’m on another level.”
K-State (17-7, 7-4 Big 12) needed a lot more than just its starters to dispatch No. 7 Kansas (18-6, 9-2), which kept finding ways back into the game as the Wildcats looked for ways to extend their lead.
Foster led the Wildcats with 20 points and Spradling had 15, but four players off the bench combined for 30 points.
DJ Johnson and Omari Lawrence had nine apiece, Nino Williams had eight, and Nigel Johnson had four points.
The help from the bench came in more ways than just scoring. With the score tied at 29, DJ Johnson blocked a pair of Kansas shots on the final possession over the first half to leave the game deadlocked. Nigel Johnson added three assists, and Lawrence had two steals, playing 22 minutes with both Shane Southwell and Williams in foul trouble.
(Kansas State freshman Marcus Foster goes in for a shot against Kansas on Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum. Foster scored a game-high 20 points).
Ultimately, it was Spradling and Foster who made the plays that sealed the deal for the Wildcats. In the first half, Kansas coach Bill Self said they made two defensive mistakes on Foster, and he made 3-pointers each time.
In the overtime period, Foster was able to weave through traffic and kick to Spradling for a 3 that put K-State ahead by one.
“That was big time,” Foster said. “I told Will in the locker room I would have been mad if he hadn’t shot it, but I knew he was going to make it — that’s why I kicked it to him.”
Self thought Spradling was a player that caused them trouble all game long.
“I thought he was the rock,” he said. “I thought he did a good job handling the ball, what did he have 15 points? He made a baseline runner shot that was huge in regulation, and then the shot he made late was really big to put them up one in overtime. I thought he played terrific.”
Less that a minute later, Foster made a layup and an and-one free throw to put the Wildcats out in front, 75-73.
Foster and Spradling both made two free throws apiece in the final 21 seconds to preserve the win.
K-State had its chances to put the game away as early as the first 10 minutes of the second half, as Foster led a 10-2 run that put the Wildcats ahead 46-37. But the Jayhawks answered with a flurry of points to get it back down to a four-point game with 12:47 left, on a play that left Foster hurt.
Foster would return a few minutes later, with the Wildcats up by six, but he left the game again after driving the lane and running into Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins. In his absence, Kansas cut the lead to 52-50 with 8:03 to play.
After a Spradling 3-pointer, Foster came jogging back to the court during a timeout, but the Wildcats didn’t really need him. Leading 57-53, the Wildcats went on a 9-4 run with seven points from DJ Johnson, and after two free throws from Iwundu, they led 68-59 with 1:53 left.
“(Marcus) turned his ankle, he cramped, Omari cramped, Shane hurt his foot, you look at the bench, Nigel, DJ, Omari and Nino were so huge,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “They’ve been our energy guys and they’ve been begging us for a t-shirt. We’ve been talking about ‘next man up.’
“We’ve been a little slow at getting that motivational t-shirt to them — maybe it will come now — they deserve it.”
The Jayhawks would answer by scoring six points in less than 30 seconds, and completed a 10-1 run with a basket by Wiggins with six seconds left to force overtime. Wiggins scored two of his four field goals in the run.
But even as the game crept into overtime, Foster never lost confidence.
“I knew 100 percent we were going to come out with a win,” he said. “We’ve just got five more minutes where we got to battle and compete.”
Self said he felt his team has the momentum going into overtime, but admitted it was hard to feel they had the momentum when the atmosphere was so “juiced.”
Weber said before the period started, he delivered a simple message to the team.
“I told them all ‘look at me, you’ve worked too hard to not grab this game,’” he said. “Our character, and that’s something we’ve talked about, let us overcome the emotion. We had great character, great emotion in overtime.”
It was Perry Ellis that hurt the Wildcats most of the night, leading the Jayhawks with 19 points. Ellis made 4 of 6 free throws in overtime before committing his fifth foul with 35 seconds left.
“If there’s an MVP in this league, it’s Perry Ellis,” Weber said. “You can talk about Wiggins, you can talk about Embiid, that dude is a winner and he’s tough to stop and he does all the little things. He’s so good.”
With the Wildcats leading 83-79, Kansas got the ball to big man Tarik Black, who was blocked by Iwundu as he went for a layup. Iwundu pushed the ball up court and got it to Spradling and Wiggins fouled out of the game by sending the senior guard to the line to put the game away.
“It’s a great win for us, ” Spradling said. “It’s just another step towards winning the Big 12, there’s still a chance, we’re only two games back now. That was a really big game for us. We’ve got to come out Saturday (at Baylor) and be prepared.”
While Ellis led the Jayhawks in scoring, Wiggins had 16 points, half of them coming from the free-throw line, while Naadir Tharpe had 13 points and Brannen Green scored 10 off the bench.
The Jayhawks’ other two starters, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden — who scored 20 against K-State in Lawrence in January — combined for eight points and Embiid played just 18 minutes.
Note for courtside ticket holders
Three days ago Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart shoved a Texas Tech fan in the front row in Lubbock, Texas, after a verbal exchange. Hoping to avoid such an incident at Bramlage Coliseum, the K-State administration left notes for courtside ticket holders for Monday night’s game against the rival Jayhawks.
“As a reminder, NCAA Rule 10-2.8 stats that, ‘When the misconduct of a follower(s) is extreme or excessive, such behavior may be penalized by the official, requesting home/contest management to eject from the premises the team follower(s) involved in the misbehavior.’”re only two games back now. That was a really big game for us. We