Fifty years of women’s basketball at Kansas State and the University of Kansas culminated in a thriller of a game in Lawrence on Sunday afternoon as the Wildcats beat the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse, 63-59 in overtime.
“You look at these as two programs that committed to women’s basketball early and meant so much to the region,” K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “I told the team yesterday, ‘You’re going to step out there and you’re going to play in a rivalry game that is important to women’s basketball.’”
The women’s basketball programs of both schools pre-date the 1972 Title IX legislation that denied universities the ability to discriminate on the basis of sex. The two teams wore “throwback” uniforms to reflect their history.
The story of the game for K-State early on was its defense. The Wildcats’ 2-3 zone absolutely confounded KU early on. KU committed eight turnovers in the first quarter alone.
“We got a lot of deflections early in the game,” Mittie said. “I thought we roofed them pretty well.”
K-State also forced KU to get all nine of their first-quarter points on 3-pointers toward the end of the shot clock.
Even with all the turnovers, K-State struggled to finish under the basket when trying to run on the Jayhawks. KU always seemed to have someone dropping back to stop the transition layups.
“We reminded them that we were wearing the light-blue shirts and reminded them that they need to throw it to those [players],” KU head coach Brandon Schneider said.
KU’s guards came alive in the second quarter, managing to drive and get to the line. By the under-five minute media timeout, K-State had committed five fouls.
Despite KU moving the ball better and only giving up one turnover in the second quarter, K-State took a slim 23-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.
K-State came out of the locker room ice cold. They missed their first nine shots of the half and allowed KU to go on a 9-0 run to take the lead.
K-State seemed lost trying to move the ball on offense as KU turned up the intensity.
Despite subpar shooting in the third quarter, KU led by just two points at the break. K-State freshman guard Cymone Goodrich hit a deep 2-point shot and a corner three to give the Wildcats a little life at the end of the third quarter.
“My message to them was: ‘The toughest team wins this game,’” Mittie said.
KU slowed it back down in the fourth quarter to turn the game into a possession game. The Wildcats scored a few baskets early in the quarter to grab a lead.
Sophomore forward Peyton Williams lead K-State with 23 points and eight rebounds. She also recorded four points in overtime.
“I saw that we needed to fire up towards the end,” Williams said. “That was my way of firing up the team.”
A pair of threes from KU juniors Brianna Osorio and Kylee Kopatich tied it at 41-41 with just over three minutes to play. They would both hit additional threes to give KU a six-point lead over the next minute.
“I’ve never played in front of that big of a crowd,” Kopatich said. “All the emotion that was running through us and we just got back into this — it was a feeling that was indescribable and something I’m never going to forget.”
K-State’s offense fell apart down the stretch, with turnovers and missed shots later on appearing to doom the Wildcats.
However, clutch shooting from Wildcat freshman guard Rachel Ranke tied the game with 10 seconds left after a ferocious comeback and great defense by K-State.
“It’s a play we have ran for about a week now,” Mittie said. “They executed it really well.”
K-State had a chance to win it late in regulation after a fumbled rebound went out of bounds off of KU, but the half court heave was late.
A missed free throw by KU’s Kopatich, coupled with some missed close shots and empty possessions would prove fatal for KU in overtime.
Junior guard Kayla Goth came in clutch at the free-throw line and off the dribble late in overtime. Ultimately, senior guard Shaelyn Martin iced the game with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds to go.
“It was a fun game all around,” Williams said.