Originally published March 7, 2014 at 09:37p.m., updated March 7, 2014 at 10:48p.m.
Oklahoma City Chelsea Gardner scored six of her 29 points in overtime as eighth-seeded Kansas University defeated No. 9 seed Kansas State, 87-84, on Friday night in the opening round of the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“It’s how rivalry games should go down, don’t you think?” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said after the Jayhawks (13-18) earned their second win in three tries against the Wildcats (11-19) this season.
“It’s a rivalry game, it’s a rubber match and in the Big 12 Tournament, and it’s ‘We win or go home,’ and it was ‘go back’ for us and it was all that,” Henrickson said. “Couldn’t be more proud of the toughness we showed to get it into overtime.”
Kansas trailed Kansas State by as many as 16 points in the first half before closing the deficit to 34-31 at halftime. The Jayhawks outscored the Wildcats, 42-39, in the second half and pulled ahead, 73-71, with 10 seconds left in regulation after Gardner connected on a jumper. Gardner blocked Leticia Romero’s layup attempt on the other end, but KSU’s Breanna Lewis (team-high 20 points and game-high 14 rebounds, five blocks) put back the rebound with a second left, sending the game to overtime.
Kansas State used an 11-5 run to open overtime, taking an 84-78 lead with 2:11 to play. Natalie Knight made two free throws, Asia Boyd converted a three-point play, and Gardner went 4-of-4 from the line to cap the scoring. The Wildcats missed two shots and committed two turnovers down the stretch.
“We’ve played more one-possession games than any team in America, I really believe,” Henrickson said, “but we’ve not found ways to make plays on both ends. Chelsea’s free throws, we get the 50/50 loose ball finally and we get the stop at the end with the three-point game, and in those moments we’ve not done that. We’ve been that close all year, and just excited for the kids that we were finally able to get one, and it was that close.”
Kansas will play No. 1 seed Baylor (26-4) Saturday in the quarterfinals. The Jayhawks defeated the Bears, 76-60, on Jan. 19 at Allen Fieldhouse after losing, 75-55, on Jan. 5 at Baylor. The KU women would need to upset Baylor again to keep their season — and a shot at the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament — alive.
“I think we just need to fight,” Gardner said, “fight like we did tonight, and just fight, fight, fight.”