In a thrilling overtime showdown against No. 2 Kansas, the No. 13 K-State Wildcats won the Sunflower Showdown 83-82. The back-and-forth battle went all the way to the end with multiple big time moments, finished by a game-winning alley-oop from guard Markquis Nowell to forward Keyontae Johnson.
Physicality and defense were the themes early on each side. The two teams started off the game with a combined 0-5 from the field and two turnovers in the first two minutes of play from each side. After the slow and rugged start, the Wildcats took control.
K-State gained a quick 14-6 lead after Johnson led five minutes of play, scoring eighth quick points on three shots. The Jayhawks committed five turnovers before the 13-minute mark, assisting the early K-State lead.
The Wildcats kept their distance for the majority of the first half, aided by guard Desi Sills scoring 14 of his 24 points in the first half. Along with Sills’ and Johnson’s scoring feats, K-State started off strong with a vigorous defense and dominated the battle inside the paint on both sides, leading by as much as 14.
“My teammates found me early,” Sills said. “They told me just believe in my work, trust in my work and just go out there and be the dog they know I am.”
Kansas’s shooting woes ended as forwards Jalen Wilson and KJ Adams Jr. combined for 27 points with Adams shooting a perfect 6-6 from the field and Wilson shooting 5-13 after missing his first five attempts. Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. assisted on nearly half of the Jayhawk field goals in the half, collecting seven for the half. Johnson finished the half with a mid-range jumper over Wilson, giving K-State a 44-39 lead after 20 minutes.
The opening of the second half mirrored the beginning of the first. Both teams struggled to score early, going on streaks of at least five missed shots in a row. For the Jayhawks, that included missing five straight 3-pointers out of the break until guard Grady Dick ended the streak, his first of the game.
After some back-and-forth, Wilson gave the Jayhawks another boost. Scoring his 23rd and 24th point at the free throw line, he gave the Jayhawks their first lead since the first three minutes of the game, leading 58-57 with 8:40 remaining.
“Jalen Wilson got to the line,” Johnson said. “That took us back a little bit, just trying not to foul but still playing aggressive.”
Johnson would give an answer of his own, scoring five straight points to take a 61-61 tie to a 66-61 Wildcat lead. The Jayhawks would climb back into the lead but would give it back to K-State.
With 1:43 left and a 70-69 Kansas lead, Sills drove and was fouled by Adams, committing his fifth foul and fouling out of the game. Sills would go on to tie the game. Down the floor, the struggling Nowell would strip the ball from Adams’ replacement, Zach Clemence, and go coast-to-coast to take the lead 72-70 with 1:14 remaining.
“He’s getting really good at not allowing things to rattle him,” head coach Jerome Tang said about Nowell. “…. He’s getting better at that. So he’s growing as a point guard and as a leader.”
Wilson would tie the game with a pair of free throws at 72-72. After a Wildcat possession that ended with multiple players on the floor, Kansas had the last shot. K-State blew up the play with forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin helping Johnson out on a steal, but the forward would miss the potential game-winning layup. The game would head to overtime at 72-72.
Overtime continued the back-and-forth as momentum swayed each way. It led all the way up to the final two possessions.
With Kansas up 82-81, K-State had one more possession to take the lead. The Wildcats went back to the duo that had brought them to this level of play: Nowell to Johnson. Johnson cut to the basket and Nowell threw him an alley-oop, perfectly placed for the slam. Johnson scored his 24th point to take the lead and the game. The Jayhawks failed to score and the Wildcats took the Sunflower Showdown 83-82.
“I couldn’t focus on catching,” Johnson said about the alley-oop. “I mean, I missed the game winning layup so I had to do something.”
“We had a shot last year at beating them up 17 and now finally getting it done, it feels really good,” Markquis said.
Johnson’s and Sills’ 24 points were helped by Tomlin recording his first double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. All the Wildcat performances were needed to outlast Wilson and his 38 points. The high-scoring performance came along with Adams’ 17 points. The struggles for Kansas came from their shooting performance from beyond the arc, hitting only 20.6% of their 3-point attempts.
“We knew they were going to key in on Markquis and Keyontae because a lot of teams been doing that,” Sills said. “We worked all week on the ball screen and different stuff to take advantage of and get open shots.”
The end of the game witnessed another storming by K-State students. When it was all said and done and the fans were covering the entire hardwood, Tang gave a victory statement to all who could hear.
“I told ya we were going to get you a court storming,” Tang said. “From here on out, expect to win.”