Kansas falls short to K-State on Senior Day, 61-54

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LAWRENCE, Kan. –  Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch sank any hopes of a Kansas women’s basketball victory on Senior Day as Kansas State swept the 2017 Dillons Sunflower Showdown with a 61-54 victory on Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.

On a day with the spotlight on the senior class, Kansas (8-20, 2-15 Big 12) senior forward Caelynn Manning-Allen stole the show and put forth a career effort in the final home game of her career. Manning-Allen netted a career-best 21 points, her first game with 20 or more points in her Jayhawk career, while also grabbing six rebounds. Senior guard Timeka O’Neal, one of the best 3-point shooters in KU women’s basketball history, shot 2-for-6 from long range for six points. Sophomore guard Kylee Kopatich contributed 17 points, her 14th double-digit scoring effort of the year.

In the second installment of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown, the lead was traded back-and-forth six times before staying with Kansas State, unlike the first meeting where KU was attempting to make a comeback from the start. Heading into the final quarter, the Jayhawks had a narrow lead over their in-state rivals, but K-State would capitalize on trips to the free throw line down the stretch to seal the win. The Wildcats made all 11 attempts from the charity stripe in the final two minutes of the game.

In addition to Manning-Allen’s career day, junior guard Chayla Cheadle pulled down 16 rebounds, the most by a Jayhawk since Chelsea Gardner recorded 20 against West Virginia in 2015. Cheadle’s effort off the glass propelled KU to win the rebound battle, 39-38. Cheadle has grabbed 10 or more boards three times in her career, all this season.

K-State’s offense was paced by senior center Breanna Lewis, who ended the afternoon with 21 points to lead all scorers. She also grabbed 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season. Lewis connected on nine of her 14 shots from the field. Senior guard Kindred Wesemann added 12 points with a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the free throw line.

Senior Caelynn Manning-Allen

The Wildcats started the game off with four unanswered points and forced four Kansas turnovers until sophomore guard Kylee Kopatich answered with a 3-point basket to put the Jayhawks within one, 4-3, in the opening minutes. The quarter stayed close throughout the quarter as both team’s displayed its defensive talents early on.

A second Kopatich 3-pointer put Kansas on top, 8-6, followed by three points from O’Neal to extend the Kansas lead to five. The Jayhawks maintained a four-point lead as the first period came to a close after O’Neal sank her second triple of the game and Kansas headed into the second period with a 16-12 lead.

K-State regained the lead, 24-16, in the second period after a six-minute KU scoring drought. Manning-Allen ended the Wildcats run with a layup, followed by Kopatich’s third 3-point basket of the night to put the Jayhawks back within three. Kansas continued to answer each of K-State’s attempts to run away with the game. The Jayhawks shot 4-of-5 from the field to end the first half, but K-State maintained a 28-25 lead going into the locker room.

Kansas State got things started offensively and defensively in the second half with three points and a steal within a minute and a half, extending the Wildcat lead, 31-25. Kansas continued to remain within single digits as Manning-Allen and Kopatich added the first points for the Jayhawks of the half at the six-minute mark, as the Jayhawks continued to chip away at its deficit and trailed the Wildcats, 33-29.

Kansas held K-State scoreless for the next five and half minutes, allowing Kansas to come within two of the Wildcats halfway through the third quarter. Senior Jada Brown made some big buckets late, Manning-Allen was able to tie the game with a 3-point play the old fashioned way. On the next trip down the court, Manning-Allen regained the lead for the Jayhawks.

Kansas State briefly took back the lead with a 3-pointer from junior forward Kaylee Page, but Brown answered with a layup, putting Kansas back on top, 38-37. Kopatich extended the Jayhawks’ advantage to three with a jumper, but a K-State free throw from Lewis would put the KU lead at two to end the third quarter, 40-38.

KU’s lead grew to four in the opening minutes of the final quarter with another Manning-Allen layup, but K-State’s Lewis continued to give the Jayhawks trouble, she converted on back-to-back possession to regain the lead for Kansas State. A lead that would remain in place until the final whistle blew.

Manning-Allen ended K-State’s 8-0 run to put KU back within one point with a layup and a pair of free throws, but Lewis responded with a 3-point play to put the Wildcats back on top by four, 51-47. With just under a minute to play, Cheadle knocked down her first field goal of the game, a triple, to cut KU’s deficit to one.

Despite their fight until the end, the Jayhawks were forced to foul to get the ball back and made a run for the lead. Kansas State took advantage of every opportunity from the charity stripe and made 11-of-11 attempts in the final minutes of the game. With the help of clutch free throw shooting, the Wildcats escaped Allen Fieldhouse with a 61-54 victory.

Kansas heads to Morgantown, West Virginia., for a showdown with the Mountaineers. The Jayhawks’ final regular-season contest will tip at 6 p.m., central time inside WVU Coliseum. 

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