Kansas State never led, never tied the game and trailed by as much as 19.
And still, the Wildcats battled all the way back to pull within six of Iowa State only to lose 87-79 on Wednesday in Bramlage Coliseum.
It’s the third straight loss at home for the Wildcats and the sixth loss in the last seven games.
Iowa State (16-9, 8-5 Big 12) looked to serve up a knockout punch from the beginning, dialing in on offense with a 16-2 run to go ahead 22-6 with 10:37 left in the first half. The Cyclones extended the lead to 19 with a 3 from Naz Long with 5:16 left in the half, and Iowa State led 42-26 at the intermission.
It was a forgettable start to the game and one Wesley Iwundu said is on the players.
“The coaches can only do so much, it falls back on the players to get themselves motivated and coming out from the jump ball ready to play,” Iwundu said. “At the end of the day, it’s on ourselves — the man in the mirror.”
K-State (16-10, 5-8) fought hard to get back in the second half. After Iowa State extended its lead to 19 with 16:04 left in the game, the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes to pull within seven points.
Iowa State countered back with a 10-2 run aided by a technical foul against Barry Brown, and then K-State hit right back with a 9-2 run right back to trail 63-55 with 7:04 to play. Brian Patrick made a 3-pointer and Dean Wade hit a bucket as part of a quick 5-1 scoring run to pull within 66-60 with 5:53 to play.
Matt Thomas, who led Iowa State with 25 points in the first meeting between the teams this season, hit 3 in front of the Cyclone bench with 3:05 left to extend the lead to nine points, and K-State never got any closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We were more aggressive,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We turned them over. We shot 58 percent. We attacked the basket. Everybody played better, but it was a little late.”
In the end, the slow start was too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
“I just told them in the locker room it’s all about how we respond to the next game,” Iwundu said. “We have to put this one past us. We didn’t get it, so now we have to go get the next one. We’ve got man up and make a run, get some wins.”
Iowa State’s effort was heavily aided by Solomon Young’s career-high 18 points and 12 rebounds. Solomon, who made 8 of 10 shots, made just his second start of the season and his previous scoring high was 12 points in the first month of the season. Four other players scored more than 14 points for the Cyclones.
“The big kid just killed us,” Weber said. “He did what he can do and he played off of everyone else.”
K-State didn’t start D.J. Johnson for the second straight game because of an ankle injury, but this time he played 11 minutes for the Wildcats. Johnson finished with no points and no rebounds.
“He warmed up and said he’d like a chance,” Weber said. “He hasn’t practiced. We wanted to see if he could give us a little shot in the arm, but you could tell he hasn’t practiced since 10 days ago.”
Brown led K-State’s comeback effort, scoring a game-high 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Wesley Iwundu chipped in 16 points and 13 rebounds, Wade scored 15 and Kamau Stokes finished with 13. Stokes was questionable for the game after injuring his foot in practice on Tuesday, and Weber said he had a small procedure on Wednesday so he could play.
K-State heads on the road this weekend for a game at Texas on Saturday. The contest tips off at 1 p.m. on the Longhorn Network.
“I feel good about our guys that we’re going to come back on Saturday and play at a high level,” Weber said.