Kansas State coach Bruce Weber made a point to praise Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte, who scored 20 points and made three of seven three-pointers.
Forte’s outside shooting, however, isn’t all that Weber covets.
“That dude, he’s just a tough, little feisty bugger,” Weber said. “You’ve got to love a kid like that. He fights every play, whether he makes baskets or not. You’ve got to love how hard he competes and loves to play. That’s why he’s won. We just don’t have that. I think Thomas Gipson wants to, but it’s hard when your big guy is the guy that’s doing that. We need somebody to be that competitive, feisty guy.”
The Wildcats didn’t show that fight when things got tough in the second half. They answered the Cowboys’ runs in the first half.
“If you’re at home, maybe you can survive that,” Weber said. “We watched last year’s game here last night. Same thing. We battled and battled and competed. Then all of a sudden Marcus Smart said ‘Heck with you guys, I’m going to take it to a new level. If you can’t, then we’re winning.’ That’s what happened.”
The Wildcats fell to 0-3 in road games.
▪ Weber gave sophomore guard Nigel Johnson his first start and played freshman Malek Harris 22 minutes after a season-high 24 against Georgia.
Wesley Iwundu, bothered by a hand injury, returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 6 at Tennessee. Gipson started after coming off the bench against Georgia to score 19 points.
The search continues for players whom Weber trusts to win him games. Sophomore Marcus Foster isn’t the only Wildcat in a bad way. Nino Williams started but played just 10 minutes.
“Nino’s got to play well,” Weber said. “He had his best run as a player, now he just lays an egg the last three games. This has been the M.O. for his career. He’ll have a few good games here and there. Never consistent.”