MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas had dominated its rival on the road, winning 48 of the previous 51 matchups.
Putting three freshmen in the starting lineup, especially in a raucous environment such as Bramlage Coliseum, is nevertheless a tall order — even for a team as talented as the seventh-ranked Jayhawks.
That youth showed itself down the stretch, as Marcus Foster scored 20 points — including two free throws in the closing seconds of overtime — to give Kansas State an 85-82 victory Monday night.
"When you're from Cameroon, Toronto or Boston and it's your first time through it, sometimes you may not understand how much it means to everyone who has played in it before," Kansas coach Bill Self said referring to his trio of talented freshmen: Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden Jr.
"We'll know better with our young kids next time," Self said.
Will Spradling added 15 points for the Wildcats (17-7, 7-4 Big 12), who blew a nine-point lead with less than 2 minutes left in regulation, only to survive for just their third win over the Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2) in 26 games played at Bramlage Coliseum.
Hundreds of students flooded the court when the final buzzer sounded to celebrate the end of a six-game skid against Kansas.
Wiggins scored 16 points for the Jayhawks, including a putback of his own miss with 6.9 seconds left to force overtime. Perry Ellis had 19 points, Naadir Tharpe added 13 and Brannen Greene scored 10, making two key baskets near the end of regulation.
"I thought momentum was on our side," Self said.
Tarik Black even scored the opening basket of overtime, but every time the Jayhawks tried to build a lead, the Wildcats had an answer — a three-point play by Foster, a free throw by Omari Lawrence, or a big putback from unheralded big man D.J. Johnson, who had nine points.
"We felt good. We felt energized," Ellis said. "We just couldn't get no stops. We couldn't get no stops in the second half and overtime."
Still, it wasn't over until Foster's two free throws with 21.9 seconds left gave Kansas State an 83-79 lead, and Wiggins missed a 3-pointer at the other end. Black missed another shot, and the Wildcats finally corralled the rebound, allowing time to run out.
"If we lost," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said, "it would have been a heartbreaker."
Unlike the first meeting in January, when the Jayhawks raced out to a big lead and then simply nursed it through the second half, the rivals played to a draw Monday night.
Kansas State surged to an early lead thanks to some poor shooting by the Jayhawks, only to go into a slump of its own. Both teams eventually got into foul trouble as the game began to resemble an old Big Eight tussle, and the result was a 29-29 halftime tie.
In fact, there may have been more bodies on the court than baskets made, and the Jayhawks' Black even had to limp off after twisting his ankle while going up for a rebound.
The angst reached a crescendo midway through the second half, when Thomas Gipson of the Wildcats and Kansas guard Frank Mason got into a shoving match. Both were given technical fouls.
Kansas was already playing without reserve forward Jamari Traylor, whom Self sat for disciplinary reasons. With the nagging injury to Black on top of the foul trouble, one of the deepest teams in the nation had its depth tested in one of the rare instances all season.
"Both teams are beat up," Self said afterward.
After taking a 35-34 lead with 17:34 remaining, the Wildcats ripped off the next nine points. And even when Foster turned his ankle and briefly went to the locker room, Kansas State was still able to match the Jayhawks basket for basket.
The Wildcats couldn't close the game in regulation, though.
Wesley Iwundu made one of two free throws with 30 seconds left to give Kansas State a 69-65 lead, but Tharpe quickly answered with a layup. Iwundu was fouled again but missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving Wiggins a chance to send the game to overtime.
The Wildcats simply refused to give up.
"We made mistakes," Weber said. "To their credit they came back, but our character, and that's something we talked about, let us overcome the emotion."