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Freshman S’Mya Nichols Scores 22, Leads Kansas Past Kansas State 58-55



LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Freshman S’Mya Nichols scored 22 points to lead Kansas to a 58-55 win over No. 10 Kansas State on Sunday.


Taiyanna Jackson added 11 points and Holly Kersgieter scored 10 for Kansas (16-11, 9-7 Big 12), which closed out the victory with an 11-4 run and improved to 6-1 in its last seven games.

“This is the best memory I have of Allen Fieldhouse,” Kersgieter, a super senior, said of her final game against rival Kansas State. “Whether you’re playing for a championship, or whatever, having a home rivalry game against the top-10 team at a crucial moment in the season, I thought to myself, ‘This is the best moment.’”

Kansas coach Brandon Schneider, who is in his ninth season at Kansas, agreed.

“Obviously winning the NIT championship was great last year, but this team is fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth,” he said. “I think a top-10 win late in the year is one of those that you add to the resume.”

Ayoka Lee scored 14 points and Taryn Sides added 11 for Kansas State (23-5, 12-4), which has gone 3-4 in its last seven games.

“I thought Kansas outplayed us down the stretch in a tight ballgame all the way around,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “They executed their stuff better than we did. They did a real good job of disrupting some things for us. And we didn’t play with as much poise as we needed to play with.”

Mittie said Lee is still working her way back into game shape after missing multiple games with injuries.

“She hasn’t had a lot of reps,” he said. “It wasn’t the type of injury that you’re able to get a lot of reps on. I think it’s going to take her a couple of weeks to get the feel around the rim.”

Kansas State held a 51-47 advantage before Kansas started its closing run. Nichols used a spin move for an open layup to tie the game at 51 with 3:31 left.

“We knew exactly what we were getting from her as a player, in terms of her skill level and our versatility,” Schneider said of his freshman star. “But until you start working with the player, you see the poise and composure and that side of it. I think she is far beyond her years of experience.”

Kersgieter hit a mid-range jumper to give Kansas the lead with 2:43 remaining. After Serena Sundell hit one of two free throws, Nichols scored to make it a three-point game, 55-52, with 2:03 remaining.

Sundell missed a contested layup on the next possession, and Kersgieter hit two free throws to give Kansas a five-point lead and added another to push the advantage to six points at 58-52 with 24.8 seconds left.

Sides hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Wildcats within 58-55, but her 3-point try at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“I was thinking, ‘Stay out,’” Schneider said with a laugh. “It’s like rooting against a putt.”

The third quarter ended with the Wildcats clinging to a 43-42 lead after the teams traded buckets most of the period. Nichols scored seven of Kansas’ 14 points in the third quarter.


Kansas State: The Wildcats will be tough to stop once Ayoka Lee is at full strength. Lee is working into shape after missing multiple games due to injury.

Kansas: This might have been a victory that secured an NCAA Tournament berth for the Jayhawks, who came into the game on the bubble.


Kansas State: Host Iowa State on Wednesday.

Kansas: At UCF on Wednesday.