MANHATTAN, Kan. — Just when it looked like Tuesday’s game was slipping away, Kansas State took control.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
That’s the kind of poise, resolve and toughness the Wildcats showed in a 72-66 victory over Oklahoma at Bramlage Coliseum.
Not only did the come-from-behind win come three days after a humbling blowout loss at Kansas, it came in dramatic fashion.
For much of the night, it appeared Oklahoma was simply too strong for the Wildcats. Case in point: The Sooners held a 62-56 lead with 5 minutes, 37 seconds remaining despite making 33.3 percent of their shots, getting two points from leading scorer Cameron Clark and allowing K-State to make three-pointers at an uncharacteristically high rate.
Even with those factors working against them, the Sooners had confidence and a two-possession lead.
But it was K-State who dominated down the stretch.
Less than three minutes later, the Wildcats were on top 66-63 and on their way to their third win over a ranked foe.
“They made a run. We made a run,” Weber said. “We were just fortunate at the end that we were able to make the run that gave us the victory. That’s what you hope you can do at home, find a way to win. It’s great. That’s a good win.”
The game-changing swing began in unexpected fashion when freshman forward Wesley Iwundu, who had made one outside shot in his first 16 games, nailed a three-pointer from the corner. Then freshman guard Marcus Foster, who led K-State with 18 points, made a jumper, Thomas Gipson hit a layup and Foster hit another three. Just like that, K-State went from trailing by six to leading by three with 2:07 to go.
Oklahoma had several chances to retake the lead, but K-State repeatedly turned the Sooners away. Gipson and Iwundu neutralized Oklahoma big man Ryan Spangler, who tormented the Wildcats with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Shane Southwell, who had 16 points and eight rebounds, stripped the ball away from Clark as he drove to the basket. And Nino Williams, who had 10 points and nine rebounds, helped the Wildcats close things out at the foul line.
“I hit a big shot in the corner,” said Iwundu, who had 11 points and six rebounds. “I was wide open. I really had no choice but to make it. That and rebounding (was important late). That was something I really wanted to be good at this game.”
With the win, K-State, 13-4 and 3-1 Big 12, regained some of the momentum it lost over the weekend. It has won 11 of its last 12 games.
“That was big for us,” Foster said. “Coaches were talking about how last year they lost to Kansas and they couldn’t recover right and lost to Iowa State. That was our emphasis coming into this game: We’ve got to bounce back from that Kansas loss and get it out of our head. We did a good job of not thinking about it. Our focus was on OU.”
No. 25 Oklahoma, 13-4 and 2-2, lost its first game after breaking into the top 25.
“It was a tough game,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought down the stretch K-State did some really good things. They made shots when they needed to, got loose balls and got second-chance opportunities. We did not convert on our end.
“When you are in a position to win on the road you would like to go ahead and do that. We’re not quite ready, I guess.”
Not against K-State’s defense, anyway. It held Oklahoma well below its average of 87 points, limiting Clark to two points on nine shots. Clark entered the game as the Big 12’s leading scorer, but he struggled to find good looks on Tuesday.
Combined with some hot shooting in the first half, which featured threes from Foster, Iwundu and Will Spradling on five straight possessions, and the Wildcats had found a way to frustrate the Sooners.
“That was a big boost,” Southwell said. “You saw the energy in the building. I think it got them a little bit rattled, especially on offense. When we came down and made a three, they came down and just shot the ball instead of running their sets, which they are very good at.
“When we hit threes and get momentum like that, it is very big on both sides of the ball.”
K-State’s hot start allowed it to take a nine point lead midway through the first half and head into halftime with a 39-38 advantage.
It relied on something more essential late.
“That was a character game and a gut-check game,” Weber said. “Those are the games you have to win at home.”