Jayhawks Advance, Win Overtime Thriller, 87-84
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — With Kansas down two and just over a minute remaining in regulation, junior forward Chelsea Gardner scored four-straight points to help send the Jayhawks into overtime against Kansas State, where the KU rallied from a six-point deficit to win, 87-84, Friday night in the first round of the Big 12 Championship inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Gardner scored a game-high 29 points and grabbed five rebounds, while blocking two shots. She delivered for Kansas (13-18, 5-13 Big 12) in the extra period as well, scoring six points, including all four free throws down the stretch, to defeat Kansas State (11-19, 5-13 Big 12) in the first game of the Big 12 Championship and for the second time this season.
Senior guard CeCe Harper was also instrumental in the Kansas comeback, scoring five-straight points late in the second half to tie the game. The San Antonio, Texas, native scored a season-high 20 points, making her and Gardner the first Kansas duo to score 20 points in the same game since the Jayhawks faced South Carolina last season in the NCAA Tournament. Junior guards Asia Boyd and Natalie Knight also finished in double-figure points for Kansas, scoring 13 a piece, with Boyd adding seven rebounds and Knight dishing out seven assists.
Kansas State was led by freshman forward Breanna Lewis, who recorded her first-career double-double with career-highs in points (20), rebounds (14) and blocks (five). Senior forward Katya Leick was deadly from outside for the Wildcats, knocking down five threes in eight attempts to finish with 17 points. Freshman guard Leticia Romero turned in a near triple-double performance of 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, before fouling out in overtime and fellow freshman guard Kindred Wesemann scored 18 points with the help of 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Rounding out the scoring efforts for the Wildcats was junior guard Ashia Woods, who finished with 11 and grabbed six rebounds.
Similar to the matchup on Feb. 26, the Wildcats struck with an opening run, but this time it only reached five, before the Jayhawks answered. Kansas was stagnant early and losing its floor general Harper to early foul trouble didn’t help. The Jayhawks’ defense kept them close for the first 10 minutes, but the Kansas State offense finally started to click, scoring on four-straight possessions to take a, 23-10, lead into the under-eight timeout.
Trying to get something going on offense out of the timeout, Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson inserted Harper back into the lineup with two fouls. Harper gave her coach what she was looking for with five of the next seven Kansas points to spark a run that would bring the Jayhawks back within single digits with 2:42 left in the first half. KU closed out the opening half with a 7-0 run and held Kansas State scoreless for the last 2:13 to get within three, 34-31, at the break. Harper and Gardner led the Jayhawks with eight points each in the first half.
The Kansas run continued into the second half with junior guard Asia Boyd driving in for a layup to pull the Jayhawks within one, 34-33. The Wildcats answered with the next five points to extend the lead back out to six with 18:34 remaining. Leick added to the Wildcats’ run and lead with a deep three as the shot clock expired. The Jayhawks answered by scoring the next nine points, capped off with five-straight points from Gardner to tie the game at 42 with 14:36 left in the game. Kansas State prevented Kansas from taking its first lead of the evening with some sharp-shooting from the perimeter.
With the Jayhawks trailing by one, freshman guard Dakota Gonzalez delivered Kansas its first lead, 57-56, with a layup in transition. Leick stayed hot for K-State and knocked in her fifth three of the game to put the Wildcats back in front, 59-57, with 6:15 remaining. After Kansas called timeout to talk things over, a three from Harper and an answer from Romero, kept the Wildcats in front. Kansas State maintained its slim advantage with back-to-back buckets after the final media timeout to take a 69-64 lead and force a timeout from the Kansas bench.
After the timeout, Harper drained her third three in as many attempts to get back within one possession. Harper got the rebound on the next K-State shot and took it the length of the floor to tie the game at 69 with 1:20 left in the game. A Wildcat bucket put the ball back in the Jayhawks hands with 1:02 remaining. The Jayhawks looked to their leading scorer, Gardner, for a bucket and she delivered, hitting the hook shot with 55 seconds remaining to knot the score at 71.
Harper stole the ball on the other end of the floor to give the ball back to Kansas with just over 30 seconds to play and Gardner came up clutch with a jumper from the wing to give Kansas the lead with less than 10 seconds to play. After Gardner blocked the initial attempt by the Wildcats to tie the game, the loose ball ended up in the hands of Lewis, who laid it in at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
The Wildcats struck first in the extra period, but Gardner once again provided the answer to tie the game at 75 with 4:23 left. Kansas State scored seven of the next eight to take a six-point advantage, 82-76. The Jayhawks battled back and a three-point play from Boyd fouled out Romero and brought Kansas back within one, 84-83, with 1:16 remaining. After a K-State turnover, the Jayhawks regained possession with just under a minute to play. Kansas regained the lead, 85-84, thanks to a pair of Gardner free throws.
A steal from Gonzalez gave the ball back to Kansas and the Wildcats fouled immediately. Gardner knocked down two more free throws to give the Jayhawks a three-point lead with 13 seconds remaining. The Wildcats would have one more shot, but a shot from Wesemann fell short of the basket and the Jayhawks held on to win, 87-84.
The Jayhawks will continue postseason play against No. 9 Baylor on Saturday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m. in Oklahoma City, Okla. The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Network.
KANSAS STARTERS (SEASON/CAREER): Jr. Asia Boyd (15/15), Sr. CeCe Harper (25/46), Fr. Dakota Gonzalez (3/3), Jr. Chelsea Gardner (29/57) and Jr. Natalie Knight (30/83)
• Improves Kansas’ all-time record to 770-551.
• Improves the Jayhawks to 13-18 all-time in the Big 12 Championship games.
• Reduces the Jayhawks deficit in the Sunflower Showdown to 63-46 and gives them their second win over the Wildcats this season.
• Improves Kansas 370-390 all-time when playing on the road and 47-93 under Henrickson away from Allen Fieldhouse.
• Makes Henrickson’s record 171-153 at KU and 329-215 overall.
• With 4:43 left in the first half, the Kansas defense forced Kansas State into a shot clock violation
• The Jayhawks held the Wildcats scoreless for the last 2:13 of the first half and scored seven points during the span to pull within three, 34-31, at halftime.
• Trailing by six, 84-78, with just over two minutes remaining in overtime, the Jayhawks closed out the game with nine-straight points to take the game, 87-84.
• The Jayhawks trailed by as many as 16 against Kansas State, before coming back to win in overtime, which marks their largest deficit overcome in a win this season, eclipsing the previous mark of 11, which has happened two times this season, most recently against Baylor (1/19/14).
• Friday’s game marked the first time during the 2013-14 season the Jayhawks have reached overtime. Kansas is 14-3 under Henrickson when playing an extra period. Kansas has won three-straight overtime games against K-State and the last 10 meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.
• Junior forward Chelsea Gardner and senior guard CeCe Harper scored 29 and 20 points, respectively, marking the first time that two Kansas players have scored 20 points in the same game since Monica Engelman (27) and Angel Goodrich accomplished the feat last season against South Carolina (3/25/13) in the NCAA Tournament.
• Kansas recorded a season-high 54 points in the paint, outscoring the Wildcats by 24 points in the lane. Heading into Friday’s game, the Jayhawks were averaging 29.4 points in the paint per game and have now scored 40 or more points in the paint on six occasions during the 2013-14 season.
• The Jayhawks 87 total points mark the 13th time this season they have reached at least 70 points. Kansas is 113-16 under Henrickson when scoring at least 70 points.
• Freshman guard Dakota Gonzalez converted a three-point play with 8:47 left in the game, to pull the Jayhawks within one, 54-53.
• Junior forward Chelsea Gardner converted a three-point play with 15:09 left in the game and finished with a game-high 29 points to extend her streak of double-figure scoring games to 15 and has a total of 28 double-figure scoring efforts this season. She has scored 20 or more points nine times this season and 10 times in her career. Gardner reached her 29 points on 12 field goals, which ties for the most by any Kansas player in a Big 12 Championship game. The DeSoto, Texas, native also blocked two shots to pass Tamara Ransburg (2003-04, 122) move into sixth on KU’s all-time blocked shots list, with 123.
• Senior guard CeCe Harper scored a season-high 20 points to best her previous high of 19, which she set twice, most recently against at West Virginia (3/4/14). The San Antonio, Texas, native also dished out two assists to surpass Lynette Woodard for eighth place on KU’s single-season assist list. She has 166 on the season.
• Junior Natalie Knight tied her season-high with two blocked shots, a mark she had reached four previous times this season, most recently against Yale (12/29/13).
Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson
“It’s how rivalry games should go down, don’t you think? Just, it’s a rivalry game, it’s a rubber match and in the Big 12 Tournament, and it’s we win or go home, and it was go back for us and it was all that. Couldn’t be more proud of the toughness we showed to get it into overtime. They get the offensive rebound but we scored — think about it how many — three of our out-of-state games, or seven games have been three points or less, we’ve played more one-possession games than any team in America I really believe but we’ve not found ways to make plays on both ends. Chelsea’s free throws, we get the 50/50 loose ball finally and we get the stop at the end with the three-point game, and in those moments we’ve not done that. We’ve been that close all year, and just excited for the kids that we were finally able to get one, and it was that close.”
On overcoming a deficit to win:
“Yeah, once we became more aggressive and they got eight offensive rebounds probably in the first six or seven minutes, and we finally cleaned that up. The difference was at our place I think we were still down double digits and this one was a two- or three-point game and we had a little momentum going into the locker room because we cut it to nine at our place and then it went back to 14 on three layups. So we didn’t feel like, even though we had cut it from 21, it was still 13, 14 so it felt different in the locker room. The energy in the locker room was much different than at our place because we still really hadn’t gotten back. We eventually at the six-minute mark tied it up at our place, but it took us a while to do that where we cut back into the deficit and made it a game at the half, and that worked different. But give them credit, they came out just like they did at our place and hit shots. They didn’t shoot as well as they did at our place, but they offensive rebounded and hit free throws, Wesemann hit three threes and Katya hits a couple and it change defensively like we did with her. But a little bit different in the locker room this time than at our place.”
On defending Leticia Romero:
“Well, probably nobody more excited a player than that kid coming into this one coming into this after the showing at our place. Honestly, we didn’t have an answer. She had 26 and nine assists. We tried to switch up the on-ball screen and we played it three or four different ways with her and then we started to go underneath, because she is trying to drive and facilitate. She became a facilitator. At our place she was a scorer. She was a scorer from the first possession. She took two pull-up jump shots, so her mentality appeared to be a little bit in this one early, where she just got people shots. She did both at our place, but then at times she took over certainly and scored and the kid’s got mid-range game and a three and the ability to score at the rim. I thought we were a little bit more disruptive, I thought, how we played and switched and tried to switch the match-up a little bit and not give her the same thing the whole time. Although we switched how we played her in screens at our place as well. I think she became more of a facilitator early here than she did at our place. She’s good, though, heaven’s sake, she good.”
On CeCe Harper:
“Yeah, probably three of the biggest ones in her career, the and-one and the two to grow the lead and get it to three. CeCe, defensively how much different it feels when it’s a three-point game then it is a two-point game because we’re switching everything, we’re getting on everybody to get beat off the dribble, let it go to the rim, let it be a two, fine, you know what I’m saying where it’s a two-point game you’re worried about match-ups switching everything because we’re worried about it going to the rim. Get an offensive rebound, you don’t have to go rebound, you just stay at the three-point line. So those free throws turn into a three-point game, but essentially it’s a whole lot different and we’ve been in those games where we needed a three and the same thing happened to us to get that good look in because of the switching and pushing and running off the line, and it was nice for us to be in that situation where it was a three- and not a two-point game. Yeah, CeCe was aggressive and got to the rim and made good plays, and Nat could be sitting up here with us, too, because she drove it, got fouls and made free throws. When you look at a game like that, about being able to score, when you’re down six, you better find a way to score when the clock is not running, honestly, and that’s where we get back in it because how many of those are when the clock is not running. Because we get back in it, because I’m starting to talk to them about who we’re going to foul. We call black, black on, and all of a sudden we’re back in it and I call 50. I was worried for a second they were going to try to foul and I don’t think they realized that they could’ve got themselves back in it in two possessions because of the and-ones and the free throws.”
On playing Baylor again:
“Well, we played a similar defense to them and honestly we played the same thing when they had Griner. It’s the exact same thing and Iowa State has played it against them, as well. You’re not going to — I don’t think it’s possible to slow down — I haven’t seen the Iowa State game. I watched our game with them and what we did defensively, and I thought our coverage was good, I thought we kind of hedged and got back and recovered and didn’t really commit, and with her we did. In the locker room we said, okay, what killed us the first five minutes, they said she offensive rebounded on us, for a guy that we’re trying keep from touching the ball, she shot it and got her own rebounds and other guys shot it and she got those rebounds, because it was 16-3 at one point. They got all over us right away, because we got back in it one possession at a time, we got some rebounds, we scored in transition, and we rebounded the ball and they changed kind of how they played in the second half and kind of answered that. They had to defend, and we don’t have anybody in our league that can play her one-on-one. We don’t have anybody, let’s just speak for me. We don’t have anybody that can sit down and guard her one-on-one because of how many different ways she can score. I thought we brought help early, we got back and rebounded and we made some big shots and drove it on them a little bit in transition and we got some defensive rebounds, same thing how we got back in this, we defensive rebounded and get ‘some opportunities in transition.
Kansas junior forward Chelsea Gardner
On coming back in overtime:
“I thought we had a lot of energy and just not letting up and just wanting to fight and staying with them and just making plays and going to the free-throw line.”
On playing Baylor Saturday:
“I think we just need to fight, fight like we did tonight and just fight, fight, fight. That’s what I feel like we’ve got to do.”
Kansas senior guard CeCe Harper
On playing Baylor Saturday:
“I think it’s all about just coming out confident and coming out playing our game, just the prep that the coaches give us is amazing, just knowing what we needed to do to put ourselves in the situation to win tomorrow.”
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