K-State stiffens on defense to beat Sooners

1/15/2014

By ARNE GREEN

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Telegram

MANHATTAN — A rare 3-point shooting display gave the Kansas State Wildcats life, but it was their defense and rebounding down the stretch that sucked the life out of Oklahoma.

The Wildcats limited OU to two free throws and a meaningless field goal over the last 5 1/2 minutes while dominating on the boards to hold off the No. 25-ranked Sooners, 72-66, Tuesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State, which improved to a 13-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12, also knocked down 11 3-pointers, including two by freshmen Wesley Iwundu and Marcus Foster during a 16-4 stretch run.

"That's definitely a confidence-booster," Foster said of the 3-pointers. "But offense is going to come.

"We're not too worried about offense right now, we're worried about defense. Our main focus is defense."

Still, it was the Wildcats' long-range shooting that kept them alive both early and late. They made five straight during a key first-half run that led to a brief nine-point lead, then the ones by the freshmen at the end that helped erase a six-point deficit.

After Ryan Spangler's two free throws gave OU a 62-56 cushion with 5:37 left, Iwundu connected from the left corner 20 seconds later to cut it in half. Foster trimmed it to one on a pull-up jumper, and following a free throw from the Sooners' Isaiah Cousins, Thomas Gipson's rebound bucket tied it at the 3:01 mark.

Foster, who led K-State with 18 points, cut loose from the same left corner at 2:22 to put the Wildcats in front to stay, 66-63.

"Iwundu hit that three to cut it to three and that gave them some life to jump back into the ballgame and then Foster made a real tough 16-foot jumper at the free-throw line that he's capable of doing — he's a good player," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "But Iwundu's three was big in the ballgame because we had a little life and some momentum and I thought that jumped them right back into the game."

Iwundu, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds, was 1 of 5 from 3-point range going into the game. He made all three attempts against the Sooners.

"I was wide open and I really had no choice but to make it," Iwundu said.

Foster hit three straight 3-pointers during the Wildcats' first-half surge but had missed his first two of the second half before what proved to be the game-winner.

"I missed two threes before that shot in the corner, so I wasn't even thinking about the two threes I missed," Foster said. "I just shot it.

"When I'm going to shoot big shots, I just think I've got to make it and not worry about how many I'd missed."

The Wildcats also got 16 points and eight rebounds from senior Shane Southwell and 10 points each from Nino Williams and Will Spradling. Williams hit four straight free throws in the last 24.5 seconds to ice it and also led the team with nine rebounds off the bench.

"I think the biggest thing down the stretch was we stopped them," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "We got 12 of the last 14 rebounds and they were killing us on the boards.

"We were just fortunate enough that we made the run at the end that gave us the victory and that's what you hope you can do at home — find a way to win."

The victory was an important bounce-back for the Wildcats, who saw a 10-game losing streak end Saturday with a 26-point loss at Kansas. They now welcome West Virginia at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage.

For Oklahoma, which was coming off an upset of No. 8 Iowa State at home Saturday, Spangler led the way with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Buddy Hield had 12 points, but leading scorer Cameron Clark managed just two points on 1 of 9 shooting, 16 points below his season average.

K-State led by as many as nine points in the first half but needed three free throws from Spradling with less than a second left to lead 39-38 at the break.

The Wildcats shot just 28.6 percent from the field in the second half after a blistering 59.1 before intermission to finish at 42 percent. They also came back to outrebound Oklahoma, 42-38.

OU shot 33.3 percent and was 7 of 23 from 3-point range.

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