It didn’t take long on Wednesday before the Kansas State men’s basketball team looked like it was in trouble again.
Nine minutes into the ballgame, the Wildcats were already down 16-4. But thanks to a 10-1 run from freshman Marcus Foster as part of a 25-point scoring night, K-State came out ahead 71-63 against Oral Roberts in Bramlage Coliseum.
Foster’s 25 points were the most by a freshman since Michael Beasley scored 25 against Texas A&M in the 2008 Big 12 tournament. And there was little doubt that K-State needed every bit of his 25 points.
The Wildcats (1-1) didn’t get their first field goal until the 13:11 mark of the first half, when Nino Williams hit a short jumper. But by then it was already 12-4, and K-State just didn’t seem to have an answer for the Eagles.
“I thought they’d come out with some pretty good energy, but that didn’t happen,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said of his team. “You were kind of sitting there slow death that first eight minutes, thank goodness Marcus got going.”
After Oral Roberts knocked down a pair of free throws to go up 16-4, Foster answered with a 3-pointer. Then he made two free throws and followed with a layup to bring K-State within five points.
The Eagles slowed the run by making 1 of 2 free throws, but Foster was right back with another 3, and then freshmen Nigel Johnson and Wesley Iwundu each added two points to complete a 14-1 run and give K-State its first lead of the game with 7:19 to play in the half.
Oral Roberts (1-1) coach Scott Sutton felt like his team missed out on a chance to beat a Big 12 school.
“I knew we had to play well to win, but I thought with the way we started, it was a great opportunity, and we kind of let it slip away,” he said. “Give K-State credit. Give Marcus Foster credit — he was terrific.”
After Oral Roberts reclaimed the lead, Foster came back around with a 6-2 run all on his own to get the Wildcats out ahead 28-26. Foster had 16 of his 25 points in the first half.
“I just noticed that our team was looking a little sluggish, we needed a little spark,” Foster said. “I think I’m a pretty good scorer, so I just decided to take it upon myself to get my team going. It got everybody going and we made a run to come back in the game.”
Sophomore forward DJ Johnson, who scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds, didn’t know how to explain the first 10 minutes of the first half, especially after the Wildcats had let similar stretches plague them against Northern Colorado.
“I think we were just waiting on someone to get us going,” he said. “I’m not too sure what went on the first 10 minutes. I don’t think we all were there mentally and no one brought any real energy.”
Johnson scored the final bucket of the first half, dunking it through just before the clock expired to put the Wildcats up 30-27. He said he thought the play gave the team confidence and momentum going into the locker room. And when they came out, Johnson scored six of the first seven points to push K-State ahead 37-29.
Oral Roberts came as close as 39-37 in the second half before a run led by Omari Lawrence and Foster helped the Wildcats get out to a 47-38 lead. Foster hit his fourth 3 with 3:50 left to put the Wildcats ahead by nine points, and he put an exclamation point on his night with a dunk at the 2:51 mark.
Foster finished the night 9 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Weber said they will likely need more performances like that out of Foster, as they continue to sort out roles and find out who their scorers will be.
“Without Rodney (McGruder) and some of the other guys from last year, he’s going to have to pick up the pace and score the basketball,” Weber said. “Marcus is a good player, we were very fortunate to get him. He got some accolades. We were kind of sitting back laughing when people didn’t have him in the top 100 — we just couldn’t figure it out.”
It was a turnaround type performance for the Wildcats after last Friday’s season-opening loss to Northern Colorado, which saw them shoot poorly from everywhere. This time around, K-State finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field and 5 of 11 from 3-point range. After shooting less than 50 percent from the free throw line last Friday, the Wildcats shot 66 percent against the Eagles.
And, although it was a small edge, the Wildcats win the rebounding battle 32-30 and had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio with 17 assists and 12 turnovers.
The Wildcats will be back in action on Sunday against Long Beach State at 3 p.m. at Bramlage. It will be a final primer before the Puerto Rico Tip-off next week.