Kansas Erases Deficit, Falls to K-State, 76-68
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior guard CeCe Harper scored all 12 of her points in the second half helping Kansas erase an overwhelming 21-point deficit from the game’s start, but the Jayhawks had little left and fell 76-68 to Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse Wednesday night.
Harper was one of four Jayhawks (12-16, 5-11 Big 12) to score in double figures and contributed to a furious second half Kansas comeback that was foiled by a resilient Kansas State (11-16, 5-11) team. Asia Boyd (18), Chelsea Gardner (15) and Natalie Knight (14) joined Harper as KU cut the lead to 13 at half, then tied the contest with 6:42 to play. Gardner, who also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds, and Knight played all 40 minutes.
Freshman guard Leticia Romero led Kansas State in nearly every category, totaling a team-high 38 minutes while registering game-highs in points (26) and assists (7). She also led the Wildcats with eight rebounds. KSU took control of the game early with a 21-0 run to start, fueled largely by efforts in the paint with 20 of its 42 total points in the first period down low. Kansas pulled even at 57-57, but Kansas State never relinquished the lead.
Kansas State stormed out of the gate, putting on an 8-0 run to force Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson into an early timeout at the 17:54 mark, and nailed its first six shots from the field. The timeout did nothing to slow the ambush by the Wildcats, who extended their lead to 13 points while forcing the second Jayhawk timeout in less than two minutes. A free throw by Gardner gave Kansas its first point of the game after over seven minutes of scoreless play, 21-1.
Facing its second largest deficit of the season, the Jayhawks stiffened up on defense and held K-State to 2-of-11 from the field after the Wildcats opened with nine makes in their first 10 attempts. The improved defensive effort helped Kansas cut the lead to 12 points with just over eight minutes in the first half, 26-14. Kansas State weathered the Jayhawk attempt at a rally and pushed its lead back out to 13 points, 34-27, going into halftime.
Much like their rival began the game, the Jayhawks started the second half hot, shooting 80 percent from the field and trimmed the Wildcat advantage to single digits at 39-31. After a Kansas State layup had once again pushed the lead back to double figures, Knight nailed her second three of the game to bring KU back within nine, 48-39.
Again trailing by 10 points after a Wildcat free throw it was Harper who imposed her will on the offensive end of the floor with relentless drives to the basket either ending in free throws or layups beginning with 14:00 to play. Harper kicked off a furious Jayhawk run after reeling off six-straight points by making two free throws and two run-out layups, inching Kansas ever closer down 49-45.
The momentum truly shifted into Kansas’ favor after Harper deflected a Wildcat pass, kept the ball inbounds and drove the length of the floor and finished with the left hand to spark some life into the Allen Fieldhouse crowd. Harper’s layup got the Jayhawks within two points, 51-49, with 9:06 remaining while giving Kansas its smallest deficit of the game since the 18 seconds into the game. The two teams traded buckets over a four-minute span, with the Wildcats maintaining their lead by responding to each Jayhawk score.
Freshman guard Dakota Gonzalez tied the game, 57-57, after beating her defender off the dribble from the top of the key and converting a layup, but Kansas State managed to string together a couple of stops on the defensive end while scoring baskets on offense to go back up by eight, 66-58, with 4:00 to play.
When it looked like KSU had managed to put the Jayhawks away, KU had one final push left to try to win the game. First Gardner banked in a layup and Boyd cashed in two free throws to cut the eight-point lead in half with two minutes left. However, with 1:31 to play Romero drove the lane for the Wildcats and found fellow freshman guard Kindred Wesemann open in the corner for three. After the make, Kansas State was pushed back ahead by eight points, 72-64, all but ending the Jayhawks’ hopes at a monumental comeback.
The Wildcats would go on to win the season finale of the Sunflower Showdown by a final score of 76-68.
The Jayhawks will be in action next on Saturday when the Kansas seniors take the Allen Fieldhouse floor for the final time against Iowa State. The game is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
KANSAS STARTERS (SEASON/CAREER): Fr. Jada Brown (12/12), Sr. CeCe Harper (22/43), Sr. Markisha Hawkins (10/16), Jr. Chelsea Gardner (26/54) and Jr. Natalie Knight (27/80)
• Makes Kansas’ all-time record 769-549.
• Makes the Jayhawks’ all-time conference record 236-247.
• Makes KU’s all-time Big 12 record 113-179 and 56-108 in conference play under head coach Bonnie Henrickson.
• Gives Kansas State a 63-45 advantage in the all-time series and snaps a three-game winning streak for the Jayhawks in the series.
• Makes Kansas’ all-time record 396-158 when playing in Allen Fieldhouse and 124-57 under Henrickson.
• Makes Henrickson’s record 170-151 at KU and 328-213 overall.
• Kansas swatted at least four shots for the sixth game in a row, and has blocked at least four shots in seven of the last eight contests and 19 times this season.
• Kansas was held scoreless until the 13:36 mark in the first half, when Chelsea Gardner recorded the first point from the free throw line. The Wildcats opened the game with 21 unanswered points.
• The Gardner free throw sparked six-straight points for the Jayhawks, to cut the KSU lead to 15, 21-6, with 12:19 left in the first half.
• With Kansas trailing, 26-8, the Jayhawks used another 6-0 run to pull within 12, 26-14, with 8:18 left in the first half.
• The KU defense forced a shot clock violation with 36.7 seconds left in the first half, right after a Gardner block.
• The Jayhawks opened up the second half with the first four points, to pull within 10, for the first time since the 16:52 mark in the first half.
• With 6:42 left in the game, Dakota Gonzalez converted on a layup to bring Kansas all the way back to tie the game at 57 after trailing by as many as 21.
• The Kansas bench outscored the Wildcat’s bench 27-18. KU’s bench has scored in double figures in 24-of-28 games this season and has reached the 20-point mark in 12 games.
• Junior Asia Boyd finished with a team-high 18 points and tied her career-high with eight makes from the charity stripe, matching her previous high which she set against Oral Roberts (11/10/13).
• Freshman guard Dakota Gonzalez played a career-high 31 minutes, besting her previous high of 29 at Iowa State (2/15/14).
• Junior forward Chelsea Gardner blocked a season-high five shots in the first half, eclipsing her previous game high of four, which she recorded twice, including the Jayhawks last game at Oklahoma (2/22/14). The DeSoto, Texas native also recorded 15 points and snagged a team-high 10 rebounds for 12th double-double of the season and 17th of her career. Gardner’s 12 double-doubles this season are the most since Vickie Adkins had 12 in the 1983-84 season. Gardner’s 15 points also extended her streak of double-figure scoring games to 13.
• Junior Natalie Knight knocked in two shots from downtown on four attempts, marking six of the last seven games that she has shot 50 percent or better from beyond the three-point line. The Olathe, Kan., native is now within one three from 10th place on KU’s single-season three pointers list.
• Knight and Gardner never left the court Wednesday night, logging a complete 40 minutes. It was the sixth time Knight has played all 40 minutes this season and second time for Gardner.