By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Coaches like to say that "defense travels." Translation: If you play defense and take it with you everywhere, you've got a chance to win, no matter how the shots are falling.
Rivalries travel, too.
The Sunflower Showdown shifted from Kansas to the Sooner State for a first-round game in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship. It was just the third time that Kansas and Kansas State met in the event. The last time they faced off in the first round was 2006.
And it was about what one would have expected. Teams that had split the season series by winning on the opponent's home court needed 45 minutes to determine a winner. No. 8 seed Kansas prevailed, beating No. 9 seed Kansas State, 87-84 in overtime Friday night in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"It's how rivalry games should go down, don't you think?" Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "It's a rivalry game, it's a rubber match and in the Big 12 Tournament, and it's we win or go home. Couldn't be more proud of the toughness we showed to get it into overtime."
Junior Chelsea Gardner, who finished with 29, made four free throws in the final 32.5 seconds of overtime to cap a 9-0 KU run. Kansas State led 84-78 with 2:36 to play.
The Jayhawks were accustomed to overcoming deficits. They started the game in a funk and 13 minutes in had more turnovers (five) than field goals (four). Two free throws by Leti Romero gave the Wildcats their biggest lead, 28-12.
"You know at some point they're going to make a little bit of a run at you," K-State coach Deb Patterson, whose team had a five-game winning streak in Big 12 Championship openers end. "I thought we had a lot of wasted possessions during that period of time. They started to get some dribble penetration and most of their points during that time were off the dribble and at the rim."
The Wildcats (11-19) had a 44-29 rebounding edge and half of those rebounds were on the offensive glass. However, all those did was keep possessions alive; K-State had only 12 second-chance points.
Romero, a consensus choice for the All-Big 12 freshman team, missed her first nine shots and was 4-of-21 when she fouled out with 1:16 remaining in overtime. Freshman Breanna Lewis had the first double-double of her career (20 points, 14 rebounds plus five blocked shots). She also fouled out in overtime with 32 seconds remaining.
"I thought she was an absolute warrior tonight, made great plays, defended extremely well with great maturity," Patterson said. "She was dialed in, and she's a young lady with a great future ahead of her."
Gardner's 15-foot jumper with eight seconds remaining in regulation gave Kansas a 73-71 lead but Lewis followed a Romero miss with a layup that beat the buzzer and forced overtime – the first time that a first-round game has gone beyond regulation.
Kansas (13-18) advances to the quarterfinals and will face No. 1 seed Baylor at 1:30 p.m. on FSN. The Jayhawks are one of two teams to beat the Lady Bears in Big 12 play, posting a 76-60 victory in Lawrence on Jan. 19.
"I think we just need to fight, fight like we did tonight and just fight, fight, fight," Gardner said of facing Baylor.
"I think it's all about just coming out confident and coming out playing our game," said Kansas senior guard CeCe Harper, who scored 20. "The prep that the coaches give us is amazing, just knowing what we need to do to put ourselves in the situation to win."