KU tops K-State in Sunflower Showdown

Local Sports
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas Jayhawks erased a 14-point first-half deficit to top Kansas State 70-63 Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse in a dramatic and entertaining edition of the Dillons Sunflower Showdown.

Trailing by 14 in the first half, Kansas relied on Tina Stephens and Holly Kersgieter to lead the comeback and earn the hard-fought Big 12 Conference win. Stephens scored a career-high 22 points in the win, while Kersgieter added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Jayhawks. KU finished 25-for-28 from the free throw line, while Zakiyah Franklin finished 10-for-10 from the charity stripe.

The win improved Kansas to 6-5 on the season and 2-3 in league play. Kansas State dropped to 5-6 and 0-4 in the Big 12.

Stephens was a problem for the Wildcats from the very start of the game. The senior from Palmetto, Florida scored 13 of the team’s first 17 points in the game. She had 13 points at the break and helped the Jayhawks stay in the game. Kansas trailed by seven at half, cutting the lead in half during the second quarter.

The second half, however, was all Kansas. The Jayhawks outscored the Wildcats by 12 in the second half. Stephens continued her strong play, while Kersgieter emerged as the threat she has been all season.

Stephens scored the first five points of the half for the Jayhawks. The 6-foot-2-inch forward hit a 3-pointer to start the half and then followed that up with a two-point jumper to get the Jayhawks within four at 31-27.

The Jayhawks closed it to two points at 33-31, but the Wildcats stretched it back to four with a pair of free throws. Julie Brosseau then scored five-straight points to give Kansas its first lead of the game at 36-35. Her second bucket was her first and only three-pointer of the game.

Kansas State quickly took the lead back with a pair of free throws. The Jayhawks then tied it up on an Aniya Thomas free throw. Kersgieter then got an offensive rebound off a Thomas miss and cashed both of her free throws to give the Jayhawks a 39-37 lead with 2:57 remaining in the third.

The game continued to go back-and-forth, and the Jayhawks grabbed a three-point edge at 43-40 off a Kersgieter bucker in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter. A three-point play from the Wildcats with 1:06 left in the third evened the game right back up.

Leading by two, Kersgieter hit a driving layup in the final 20 seconds of the quarter to give the Jayhawks a four-point lead. The Wildcats hit two free throws in the final second of the third to make it 47-45 in favor of the Jayhawks after three. Kansas outscored Kansas State 25-16 in the third.

Stephens tied her career high of 20 points early in the fourth when she made it 49-45 Jayhawks. The Wildcats knotted the game up at 49 more than two minutes later on long two-point jumper. Stephens answered right back with a jumper to give her a career-high 22 points and give Kansas a 51-49 lead.

Kersgieter than hit a three-pointer with just less than six minutes left to give the Jayhawks a five-point lead—the team’s largest of the day. The bucket also put Kersgieter into double digits with 11 points. She has scored in double digits in all 10 of her games this season.

Chisom Ajekwu stretched the lead to six with her first bucket of the day; a layup in the post off a pitch from Brooklyn Mitchell to make it a 7-0 run for Kansas.

The Jayhawks never trailed again, securing their first victory over their in-state rival since 2019. Franklin joined her teammates in double figures with 12 points.

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