No. 11 Kansas State (15-1, 3-0) is off to its best start in decades. The Wildcats are off to their first 4-0 Big 12 start since 2012-13 and no Kansas State has had a better start to his career than Jerome Tang. Plus, the Wildcats exceeded last year’s win total with the victory.
Oklahoma State (9-7, 1-3) was without forward Moussa Cisse for the second straight game. The Cowboys, which boasted the No. 11 team in defensive efficiency per KenPom, were in it until nearly the end.
How Kansas State Won
By sticking with it with the shots weren’t falling. Oklahoma State did everything it could to pay attention to guard Markquis Nowell and forward Keyontae Johnson. Early, it worked. But others stepped up to keep things moving. Guard Desi Sills came off the bench for 11 points. Forward Ismael Massoud had six points. Abayomi Iyiola scored just four points but grabbed seven rebounds.
Eventually, Nowell got hot and finished with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds. So did Johnson, who had 12 points and six rebounds. Still, the Wildcats shot just 35.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 precent from the 3-point line. Much of that had to do with OSU’s defense, which toggled between man and zone all night to try and throw the Wildcats’ timing off.
Kansas State built a 10-point lead midway through the second half, thanks in part to a long-distance 3-pointer from Nowell with 10:10 left. But, Oklahoma State rallied because this is the Big 12 and that’s what happens.
But, in the end, it was Nowell to Johnson for the basket that put the game out of reach, as the Wildcats proved they could win a game when not everything was clicking on offense.
How Oklahoma State Lost
It wasn’t the Cowboys’ defense. They held the Wildcats to 65 points, a team that scored more than 90 points in each of their last two games. No, it was Oklahoma State’s offense. OSU shot 33.3 percent from the floor and 22.7 from the 3-point line.
But the Cowboys found ways to stay in the game. They outrebounded Kansas State on the offensive glass (15-14, though KSU closed that gap late), went 8-of-9 from the free-throw line and forced 11 steals. But, OSU had as many turnovers as Kansas State (16). Guard Avery Anderson didn’t score a single point.
Still, forward Kalib Boone had a huge game, scoring 23 points. Guard Caleb Asberry came off the bench for 15 points, three of which came on 3-pointers. Even down 10 with 10 to play, the Cowboys got back into it, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to one point, 56-55, on a Chris Harris 3-pointer.
After that? Oklahoma State went ice cold, the third long scoring drought in the game for the Cowboys. It’s something they must correct if they hope to contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Octagon Appears to Be Back
I wasn’t in the house on Tuesday night at Bramlage Coliseum. But, it was hard not to hear how LOUD that crowd was through the speakers of my 75-inch television set (Christmas present to myself).
Honestly? It sounded like the Octagon did when Kansas State nearly beat Kansas last year. That bodes well for what Tang is building in Manhattan. If he can start getting that kind of atmosphere for every home game in Big 12 play, then he has a ‘sixth man’ that can help make life difficult on opponents.
Big 12 basketball is better when venues like the Octagon are hopping like it was on Tuesday. It’s just another great note in Kansas State’s incredible turnaround season.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard