KU, K-State both win Big 12 basketball openers

The Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats each had close battles in their Big 12 season openers Saturday, but both held on late to secure wins and 1-0 starts in conference play.

KU fell behind the Oklahoma State Cowboys early and faced a major deficit, going into halftime down by 15. The Jayhawks surged back in the second half, however, scoring 39 points while limiting the Cowboys to just 22 after the break.

Former Kansas guard Bryce Thompson had a huge game for Oklahoma State, including a game-tying three pointer with 16 seconds remaining. Just 13 seconds later, KU sophomore forward K.J. Adams hit a layup to put the Jayhawks back on top, then a defensive stand on the defensive end gave Kansas the victory as time expired.

Junior forward Jalen Wilson led KU in scoring with 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting, his eighth 20-point game of the year. Adams was the only other Jayhawk to hit double figures, scoring 14 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor.

The Wildcats played a nailbiter of their own in Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, hanging on to defeat the 24th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers 82-76 in overtime. That’s K-State’s first ranked win of the season and its the highest-ranked opponent according to Kenpom that the Wildcats have beaten.

Similarly to what KU faced in Lawrence, K-State was down double digits at halftime, trailing 32-21. A big second half got coach Jerome Tang’s group back into it, even pulling ahead by three points with just 13 seconds left.

West Virginia’s Kedrian Johnson hit a three at the regulation buzzer to send the game to overtime, but K-State outscored WVU 16-10 in the high-scoring extra session.

Senior guard Markquis Nowell scored a game high in the winning effort, leading K-State with 23 points on 6-of-14 shooting and 10-of-13 at the free throw line. Three other Wildcats reached double figures in the win, including senior guard Keyontae Johnson (18), senior center Baybe Iyiola (14) and junior forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin (11).

With Saturday’s wins, both the Jayhawks and Wildcats are now 12-1 overall to start the season.