Kansas City, MO-- The phrase ‘instant classic' has become one of the trendiest clichés in the sports dictionary to describe a competition that ends in dramatic fashion.
Its' usage tends to double during March Madness, or any sort of Duke and North Carolina Dick Vitale sporting event. Did you hear about the Duke-UNC water polo match? Oh, it was an instant classic, baby!
Regardless, ‘instant classic' is the only way to describe Kansas State's 72-69 come-from- behind victory over Texas in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament in Municipal Auditorium Thursday evening.
The first six minutes of the ballgame was anything but memorable for K-State as the Longhorns scored 17 unanswered points. Texas' version of the ‘Big Three,' Tiffany Jackson, Heather Schreiber and Jamie Carey, combined for 5 of 7 shooting from the field and completely dominated the Wildcats on defense.
Texas forced six turnovers and the Wildcats missed eight consecutive shots before senior Kendra Wecker sank K-State's first three points of the game with 14:19 left in the half.
To Kansas State's credit, they didn't pack it in and give up. In fact, the Wildcats finished the half on a 9-2 run cutting the lead to seven.
"It was really impressive to our staff that we walked into the locker room after the first 20 minutes under double-digits," K-State Coach Deb Patterson said.
"That to me was really where the character of our team had been revealed. It set a standard that I think our basketball team understood they were capable of bringing the next 20 minutes."
The late first half push put K-State in a position to be competitive, but the Wildcats needed an answer to the trio of Schreiber, Jackson and Carey, who accounted for 28 of Texas' 34 points.
Initially it looked as though Kansas State would be unable to trim down the Longhorns' lead as Jackson dominated the paint.
It's safe to say the first team All-Big 12 forward was determined to score more than eight points in the second meeting of the season against the Wildcats. Jackson led all scores with 24 points and nine boards.
With the lead extended to 13 and less than 12 minutes remaining the Wildcats found their big spark from an unlikely source.
The Kansas State bench.
And yes, Wecker, Koehn, Mahoney, Coggins and Wheeler all started the game.
Madden played for 38 minutes and brought confidence and aggressiveness to the floor every minute. That is no simple task considering the nation's top sophomore forward is defending you or scoring 24 on you.
"When Coach P (Patterson) puts me on the court I just want to do whatever I can to run through any wall for her and my teammates," said Madden, who recorded 14 points, ten rebounds and six assists.
"That's something I've learned even more in the past couple weeks because if we want to win we have to lay it all on the court."
It was McIntyre, the smallest player in stature, who had the biggest night on the court, taking a page out of six-year senior Jamie Carey's book, in that she brought to the point guard position an understanding of the game and the willingness to be a playmaker.
The 5-foot-5 McIntyre took over on offense and led the Wildcats' 20-7 charge late in the game, including five consecutive points, a fast break lay-up as the Longhorn defenders crowded around Koehn and a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with 3:19 left on the clock.
"I just knew we had it in us the entire game" said McIntyre, who scored a career and team-high 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting. "I didn't let anything rattle us and especially at the point guard position I had to maintain my cool."
McIntyre's ability to maintain her head at the point position in the final minute and a half was reflected in the play of her teammates.
Megan Mahoney, who chipped in 11 points, attacked the basket and tied the game at 67 with a spinning jumper in the lane as the shot clock expired. On the next possession Wecker, who finished with 17 points, put the Wildcats ahead for good with another spinning jumper in the lane.
And just like that a 17-point lead was gone.
The game didn't just rest on McIntyre's ability to make a basket, but on how well she defended Carey, a notorious clutch shooter.
"I knew she wanted to take the big shot towards the end of the game" McIntyre said. "She's amazing at it. It's one of her trademarks. So I did my best to stick on her."
With one second left Carey's 3-pointer rimmed out and Wecker came down with the rebound.
"Twiggy was tremendous tonight," Patterson said. "For a player like her to have made this big of an impact in a game with so much on the line and with so much pressure is just extremely impressive.
The Wildcats will face Baylor tonight at 6 p.m. in Municipal Auditorium in their first Big 12 Conference championship game since the league's inception in 1996.
Great things are possible when K-State beats Texas in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. The last time these two teams met in the tourney the Wildcats went on to the Sweet 16.
The core of that Sweet 16 team is still playing and if seeing is believing it looks like they're finally capable of winning the big game when the odds are against them.
17 unanswered points. A win. An instant classic.
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