When Oklahoma took a six-point lead with less than six minutes to play on Tuesday, it felt like Kansas State was slowly dying.
The Wildcats had scored just one field goal in that last 11 minutes of the game and the Sooners were in the midst of an 11-2 run.
But that’s when an unusual suspect stepped up for the Wildcats, as freshman Wesley Iwundu knocked down his third 3-pointer of the game to open a 16-4 run that launched K-State to a 72-66 win over No. 25 Oklahoma.
(Kansas State freshman Wesley Iwundu brings the ball up the court against Oklahoma on Tuesday night at Bramlage Coliseum. Iwundu had 11 points).
Fellow freshman Marcus Foster said Iwundu, who finished the game with 11 points and six rebounds, with three assists and no turnovers, came up big for the Wildcats when they needed it most.
“That was definitely a big shot,” he said. “Teams sag off of Wesley. His man came to me, I saw Wesley, I had a whole bunch of confidence he was going to knock it down. I see Wesley every practice, before practice putting up shots, he’s shooting 3s, mid-range pull-ups — he really deserves that type of game because he’s been working on it so hard.”
When Iwundu came to K-State, he was known as a slasher that made his name playing second fiddle to the Harrison twins in AAU ball in Texas. He was a guard throughout high school, but grew from 6-foot-2 to 6-7 before his senior season.
But when he arrived on campus, K-State coach Bruce Weber said his shot needed some fine-tuning, and Iwundu himself has put in much of the work to fix that.
“He has worked on his shot,” Weber said. “His rotation on the ball is way better. We have this ball we put a white painted line on, at the beginning of the year, that ball was a knuckle ball. It spun every which way. It’s supposed to spin perfect. I was watching him a couple days ago and I’d say four out of five he’s got pretty good rotation.”
It seemed to be clicking for Iwundu against the Sooners, as he made 4 of 6 shots from the field and added three 3-pointers. His performance from the perimeter was especially impressive since he came in making just 1 of 5 shots on the year, and hadn’t taken a 3 since the Gonzaga game on Dec. 21.
Iwundu said he felt the need to step up and make a difference after a quiet few games.
“I’ve kind of been absent the last two games,” he said. “I had a talk with coach and he was just like, ‘calm down,’ and let the game come to me. I just didn’t try to force anything and shot with confidence.”
Iwundu scored his first 3 as the cherry on top of five-straight 3s from K-State in the first half. Just three minutes after that, he made his second 3 to push the Wildcats ahead 28-19.
Although he went quiet shooting-wise until the final eight minutes of the game, Iwundu remained active.
When he had the chance to cut into the Sooners lead and effectively end their run, it was one he couldn’t pass up.
“I had a big shot in the corner, I was wide open,” he said, “I really had no choice but to make it.”
Iwundu had two big offensive rebounds in the final few minutes of the game, and forced a loose ball off an Oklahoma player on the Sooners’ side of the court.
Even though he’s been quiet the last few games, Foster said his teammate made plenty of noise against OU. And he expects him to garner extra attention after his performance from 3-point range.
“I would say he’s a good ball defender, very good on defense, you’ve got to box him out and sag off on him because he can’t shoot,” he said personally scouting his teammate. “But if I’m going off this last game, I’m saying get up on him. He’s a good all-around player.”