LUBBOCK, Texas — Missouri, the second-ranked team in the country, lost on the road to a 9-10 Oklahoma State team Wednesday night, vindicating the belief that the Big 12’s best can get beat at any point away from home, no matter the opponent.
This is relevant, because Kansas State was on the road Wednesday. Its opponent: Texas Tech, the last-place team in the Big 12. The Wildcats were expected to win, but there’s a big difference between being expected to do something and actually following through on it.
On this night, K-State did exactly what it was supposed to, dismantling the Red Raiders with a 69-47 victory at the United Spirit Arena, the Wildcats’ third straight win overall and second consecutive victory on the road.
“Big 12 road wins, anytime you get one of those, it’s a heck of a day for your kids,” K-State head coach Frank Martin said. “People take winning for granted sometimes. They think winning is like shooting an uncontested layup in your driveway. Winning at home is hard, winning on the road challenges you mentally every single time and you have to be disciplined.”
As difficult as it may be, K-State made this one look easy. The Wildcats trailed 7-6 early on, but a 12-0 run over a seven-minute stretch gave them an 18-7 lead. The Red Raiders (7-12, 0-7) would never get closer than six points the rest of the night.
The Wildcats, who improved to 15-4 and 4-3 in the Big 12, took a 31-20 halftime lead, and then slowly buried Tech in the second half. Six consecutive points by freshman Angel Rodriguez gave K-State a 55-33 lead with 9:32 remaining, as Tech never really threatened the outcome of the game in the final 20 minutes.
K-State’s defense was the main reason for that. The Wildcats held the Red Raiders to 37.5 percent shooting in the contest while forcing them into 25 turnovers, which translated to a 27-7 K-State advantage in points off turnovers.
“It let us get out on the break a lot,” Martavious Irving, who led K-State with 16 points, said. “We got a few transition buckets in the second half and that was because of (our defense) and a lot of it was because (Texas Tech) is a young team also.”
Martin said he was proud of his team’s defensive effort, and once again, the Wildcats were solid on the defensive glass, surrendering just seven offensive rebounds to Tech.
“Defensively we were solid,” he said. “We rebounded the ball, we didn’t score the way we needed to but that happens on the road. If you depend on outscoring teams on the road, it’s going to be hard to win. You have to make sure you can protect the basket and be solid with your principles.”
The Wildcats missed eight of their first nine shots to open the game, and no one scored for either team in the first three minutes of play. But K-State continued to run its offense, attempting just nine 3-pointers throughout the game. Instead of settling for jump shots from the perimeter, the Wildcats pounded the ball inside, outscoring the Red Raiders 36-20 on points in the paint.
“The thing I was proudest was we missed a bunch of shots, especially early in the game, but we didn’t settle for 3-point shots,” Martin said. “We had numerous opportunities where guys could have just said ‘alright, let me just shoot this one’ and we didn’t do that. We continued to make the extra pass, attack and we created a presence at the rim with post-ups and dribble-drives.”
K-State connected on 26 of its 54 shots (48 percent), including making 54.5 percent in the second half.
The Wildcats’ bench was dominant, outscoring Tech 38-13 on the night. At one point, the bench had outscored the Red Raiders 24-1. K-State was so good defensively that in the first half only two Tech players scored. Jordan Tolbert and Kevin Wagner combined for 34 points in the game on 11-of-23 shooting, while the rest of the Red Raiders combined for 13 points on 4-of-17 accuracy.
“When we’re good defensively we try not to let teams get into rhythm,” Martin said. “We’ve been a lot better here since the Oklahoma game and we continue to get better.”
Only four players scored for Tech on the night while K-State received scoring from 11 different guys.
K-State’s conference record is now above .500 for the first time this season. Just as important is the fact that the Wildcats accomplished it away from home.
“You get two consecutive road wins in this league, your kids are doing something right,” Martin said. “I’m extremely happy with where our guys are at right now.”
• Jordan Henriquez, who rejoined the team following a one-game suspension, checked into the game for the first time with 2:59 remaining in the contest. The junior scored two points, both on free throws, to go along with one rebound.
• K-State starter Jamar Samuels was held scoreless, while fellow starter Will Spradling scored just two points on a pair of free throws.