The first time Kansas State beat Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum, it had Michael Beasley. The second time, Jacob Pullen had a night for the ages.
The third time was different.
Though the Wildcats’ 85-82 overtime victory against the Jayhawks on Monday night was every bit as memorable as the two that came before it, there was no hero. K-State won this one behind a complete team effort.
Marcus Foster scored 20 points while battling ankle injuries, Will Spradling did a little bit of everything on his way to 15 points, and K-State’s bench came through with an unprecedented amount of big plays. Reserve guard Omari Lawrence and backup big man D.J. Johnson both scored nine points and Nino Williams added eight. Even seldom-used freshman Nigel Johnson had his moments.
There were lots of heroes.
“It was a team win,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “You come in thinking you need someone to be special to win this game. We had a lot of special.”
Indeed, it was the type of all-hands-on-deck performance Weber has been waiting for.
Perhaps he will enjoy the victory more because of it. He certainly looked as happy as every member of the K-State student body that rushed the floor after the final buzzer sounded and his players, who soaked up the moment along with them.
This was Weber’s first victory over the Jayhawks. He was 0-4. They were the only Big 12 team he hadn’t beaten.
That changed in front of an electrifying crowd that helped K-State improve its home record to 29-2 under Weber. It was K-State’s first victory over Kansas since 2011.
If the Wildcats (17-7, 7-4 Big 12) can winat Baylor on Saturday, they could easily find themselves back in the national polls next week.
At the least, beating the No. 7 Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2) will further solidify their NCAA Tournament hopes. Many considered them a lock before Monday. But they have made quite a statement over past three days, also convincingly beating Texas on Saturday.
“It was a great win for us,” Spradling said. “it’s just another step toward winning the Big 12. There is still a chance. We are only two games back and we are still in it. We have to come out on Saturday ready to play.”
Of course, the back-to-back victories almost didn’t happen.
The game was tied 29-29 at halftime, but the Wildcats appeared to pull away for good when Spradling found Johnson open under the basket for an easy layup off a pick-and-roll play with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. They led 66-57 and maintained a three-score lead for another minute.
But the Jayhawks, thanks to K-State turnovers and missed free throws, went on a furious rally to force overtime. When Andrew Wiggins hit a layup with time winding down to tie the game at 69-69, the deafening crowd went silent.
That near collapse will likely get lost in memories, because K-State closed the game out in overtime. But things were tense for a while, especially when Tarik Black scored the opening points of overtime.
Kansas, behind 19 points and 11 rebounds from Perry Ellis, 16 points from Wiggins and 13 points from Naadir Tharpe, nearly completed the comeback.
“It was an entertaining college basketball game,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I just wish we would have played a little bit harder at the end.”
But K-State, a team not known for depth, had too many bodies. Spradling hit a three-pointer to put the Wildcats ahead 72-71, then Foster hit an and-one layup to put them up 75-73. They never trailed again.
“We could have wilted, but we didn’t,” Weber said. “We deserved to win today.”
Fans stayed on the court long after the game was over to celebrate. And they cheered loudly when Weber returned to the court for a radio interview.
K-State play-by-play man Wyatt Thompson opened the segment by informing Weber he had just defeated Kansas. Weber smiled. The crowd cheered.
Much of this victory over Kansas was different than the last two. But it produced the same result.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. I am so happy for them,” Weber said. “For the rest of their life, they can remember this. It was just a great effort.”