Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 74-71 victory against Oklahoma State on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum:
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
1. This is the type of win that has lasting implications.
Before Saturday, K-State was still fighting for respect in some circles. Even after a perfect December, it was unranked and left out of most NCAA Tournament projections. That is about to change. The Wildcats will almost certainly break into the national polls on Monday. And who could predict them to miss the NCAA Tournament at this exact moment? Their RPI is down to No. 53 after hovering in the high 80s, and they own victories over four quality opponents. K-State is also back in the mix to defend its Big 12 title. A year ago, it defeated Oklahoma State in its conference opener and rode that momentum to a memorable season. The Big 12 is much stronger this year, so there is no guarantee it will happen again. But a win over Oklahoma State puts it in the discussion.
2. Marcus Smart gave K-State a gift in the second half.
Smart’s dunk over three K-State players in the second half could have gone down as the highlight of the day. Instead, it will be remembered as the mistake of the day. After completing the holy-cow play with 13:05 remaining, Oklahoma State’s star player foolishly slapped the backboard and picked up a technical foul. The whistle doubled as his fourth foul, which sent him to the bench until the final 5 minutes of the game. The Cowboys led by four following the dunk, but the Wildcats led by one when he re-entered the game. Spending all that time on the bench clearly hurt Smart’s rhythm. He struggled down the stretch, missing a layup, two free throws and a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer. Both Travis Ford and Bruce Weber admitted Smart’s absence altered the game. It would have been interesting to see how things would have played out without Smart’s technical, but that is on Smart. He earned the foul with a knucklehead play.
3. Nino Williams came up big when he had to.
When Shane Southwell picked up two fouls in the first two minutes Saturday, things didn’t look good for K-State. Its senior leader was heading to the bench for a long time. But things worked out just fine for the Wildcats when Williams, a reserve forward, came in and started scoring right away. Oklahoma State, especially without Michael Cobbins, doesn’t possess much size, so the Cowboys are always a good matchup for Williams. He scored 17 points against them at home last year and found success against them again this time around. His first score of the game came on an and-one layup off an inbounds play, and he was off to a big day. He found success inside and with his jumper. He even made seven of nine free throws on his way to 15 points. Earlier this week, Weber said Williams was a perfect example of a team player, because “Whew, he is getting a lot done” in limited minutes. As long as Williams continues to embrace that role he will be a major asset.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Marcus Foster — 8.5
On top of scoring a game-high 17 points, he grabbed eight rebounds and had several great passes.
Nino Williams — 8
Came off the bench to score 15 points when he had to while Shane Southwell was in foul trouble.
Thomas Gipson — 8
His play inside was a big difference late. The K-State forward had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Jevon Thomas — 7
The freshman point guard keeps getting better. Though he lost two turnovers (his first of the season) he scored eight points and sent out five assists. His next step is making free throws.
Will Spradling — 6.5
Nine points, one assist and no turnovers is always a good line for Spradling. A few silly fouls hurt his overall performance, though.
Wesley Iwundu — 6
Missed some shots near the rim, but played well otherwise, finishing with nine points.
Shane Southwell — 5
It’s hard to be a senior leader when you’re in foul trouble. Southwell made some nice plays, especially in the second half, but he fouled out in just 17 minutes of action.
Omari Lawrence — 3
Missed four shots in seven minutes, but he did make two steals.
D.J. Johnson — 3
He had two blocks and a rebound in limited action.
Nigel Johnson — 3
Barely impacted the game with Spradling and Thomas eating up all the minutes at point guard.