Kansas Women’s Basketball Upsets No. 10 Kansas State in Classic

Grady Johnson | @JohnsonGrady3


The Kansas women’s basketball team picked up a monster victory on Sunday afternoon, knocking off in-state rival and No. 10 Kansas State, 58-55, inside an electric Allen Fieldhouse crowd of 9,007.


Freshman guard S’Mya Nichols led all scorers with 22 points, with 13 of those coming in the second half.


“I thought S’Mya had a great stretch for them in the mid-range game when they made their push,” Kansas State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “For a freshman to be making those kinds of shots in this game, and in that moment, it shows a lot of poise and a lot of presence.”


Super-senior guard Holly Kersgieter was limited to 10 points, along with seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Despite not having her best performance, it was Kersgieter’s final Sunflower Showdown, which is one she’ll remember long after her days of playing at Kansas are over.


“The first thought was, this is the best memory I have had in Allen Fieldhouse,” Kersigeter said. “Having a home rivalry game this packed against a top 10 team, you know, at a crucial moment in the season, I thought to myself ‘this is the best moment I’ve had.’”


Kansas State star, senior center Ayoka Lee, was limited to 14 points on 21 shots. With super-senior center Taiyanna Jackson getting into foul trouble early in the second quarter, head coach Brandon Schneider had to turn to his bench, which made life difficult for the All-American Lee.


“I thought our bench was really important, in particular in the first half when Taiyanna was in foul trouble,” Schneider said. “I thought Danai (Papadopoulou) gave us some important minutes. I thought Skyler Gill gave us some important minutes, a block, and a couple of baskets. In those situations, you’re just trying to get to halftime at or near even so you don’t have to bring Jackson back in.”


Kansas got off to a quick start, burying two threes and getting an easy transition basket en route to a 10-4 lead.


Kansas State got a mid-range bank shot from redshirt sophomore forward Gisela Sanchez before Nichols and Jackson teamed up for a 7-0 run to take a 17-6 lead and force a Kansas State timeout.


Kansas State exited the timeout and quickly finished the first quarter on a 9-2 run, as the Jayhawks led 19-15 after 10 minutes.


Kersgieter hit a three early into the second quarter to help Kansas to a 22-19 lead before Kansas State went on a 9-0 run to lead 28-22.


Junior guard Skyler Gill scored four straight points and carried Kansas to a 6-2 run to cut the Wildcat lead to two, 30-28, at halftime.


The two teams traded baskets out of the half, before a Wildcat three from junior guard Brylee Glenn, and a Lee layup quickly gave the Wildcats a 37-30 lead.


Nichols scored six straight before a three from senior guard Wyvette Mayberry tied the game at 39.


Tied at 41, Nichols made a free throw to take the lead before a layup from sophomore forward Eliza Maupin gave Kansas State a 43-42 lead at the end of the third quarter.


Lee got the first two points of the fourth before Nichols converted on two free throws, and Jackson went 1-of-2 on her own trip to tie the game at 45.


Kansas State extended its lead to four, 51-47 before a Jackson layup cut it back to two. That’s when Nichols took over, as the former five-star recruit converted on a shifty drive that tied the game at 51.


Kersgieter gave the Jayhawks a 53-51 on a mid-range jump shot as the shot clock expired. Junior guard Serena Sundell cut the lead to one at the free throw line, before another Nichols spin cycle, this time with Lee on her, extended the lead to three, 55-52.


“I have a whole bunch of counter moves, and she happened to fall for every one of them,” Nichols said on her nifty move over Lee to put Kansas up late. “It was exciting and it definitely helped with momentum.”


Kersgieter went 3-of-4 from the free throw line over the next two minutes to give Kansas a 58-52 lead, before a scramble drill for Kansas State resulted in a three from freshman guard Taryn Sides with 12.1 seconds left.


That’s when the chaos ensued. Kansas inbounded it to super-senior guard Zakiyah Franklin, who was trapped and Kansas State forced a jump ball, giving possession to the Wildcats. Sides would get another look from a scramble drill, but her three banked off the backboard and fell out, as Kansas survived to take the upset win.


“Just no way that would go in,” Kersgieter said on Side’s last-second heave. “It was a great set up because I mean, you know, that’s how the game went and just how close it was, but I was just like ‘we have worked too hard for this to fall right now.’ I would have personally been so mad.”


With the win, Kansas improves to 16-11 overall, and 9-7 in Big 12 conference play, putting itself in position to sneak into NCAA Tournament play.


The Jayhawks will go on the road Wednesday, traveling to Orlando, Fla., to take on the UCF Knights. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.


Photo: Nick Daniels, KJHK Sports Photo