STILLWATER, Okla. — When Kansas State was trying to get back in the game Monday night, whatever momentum the Wildcats had disappeared in a flash.
Of course, that’s just how things have been on the road for the Wildcats this season.
After pulling within three points early in the second half against Oklahoma State, turnovers and numerous missed layups led to another road loss — this time to the surging Cowboys, 77-61, at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
It’s the first time the Wildcats have lost five Big 12 games by double digits since the 2001-02 season. The only other time they lost five, was the first season of the Big 12 in 1996-97.
K-State head coach Bruce Weber said Oklahoma State just found a way to turn it on when it needed to Monday night, and the Wildcats had no answer.
“They played like big boys and we didn’t react very well,” he said. “They kind of punked us and took it at us. I don’t think it was that we quit — we just didn’t compete. They punched us and we slapped back.”
The Wildcats (20-10, 10-7 Big 12) trailed by eight at halftime after allowing the Cowboys (20-10, 8-9) to finish the first half on a 6-0 run.
K-State opened the second half with a jumpshot by Will Spradling, followed by a 1 for 2 trip to the free-throw line and a bucket from Thomas Gipson to cut the deficit to three points.
After Markel Brown made one free throw for the Cowboys, Shane Southwell turned it over on back-to-back possessions, leading to layups by Marcus Smart and Phil Forte. Wesley Iwundu scored to bring K-State within six, but Forte answered with a 3-pointer and K-State never got any closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We made a good run in the second half there, and then we let them make a run and we really never stopped it,” Spradling said. “We never had that one stop we needed like we did against Texas Tech. We did the exact opposite, we didn’t get any stops and thought we could score with them, and you can do that with a team like that.”
The Cowboys “big three” of Smart, Brown and Le’Bryan Nash all finished in double-figure scoring, but it was Forte who led team with a game-high 23 points.
Forte was 6 of 11 from long range, and seemed to make shots whenever the Cowboys needed an extra push of momentum.
Smart had 18 points, while Brown had 15. Nash finished with 13.
“The big three worked well for them, but when a guy like Forte goes for 23… you’re really in trouble,” Weber said. “Because the other three are going to get theirs, and now you’re chasing them.”
The Wildcats had a pair of double-doubles in the losing effort, as Gipson had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Iwundu had 10 points and 10 boards.
Weber was happy with the way Gipson played throughout the game, battling on the inside and attacking the basket.
The second-year K-State coach said he thought Iwundu didn’t get it going until the second half, but said he did virtually everything he could for the team in the final period, scoring, rebounding and pushing the ball.
As a team, Weber wasn’t as happy with how it responded to the Cowboys’ competitive nature.
“They were the aggressor and we weren’t,” he said. “That’s the only thing I’m disappointed with.”
Oklahoma State celebrated the careers of its seniors — as well as Smart, a sophomore, who intends to declare for the NBA draft.
Smart was suspended earlier this season after making contact with a fan in a road game at Texas Tech, but returned to the Cowboys amidst a seven-game winning streak. Since his return, the Cowboys have won three straight, including resume-boosting wins over Kansas and K-State in the past four days.
On Monday night, Smart’s chore was to guard K-State’s leading scorer in Marcus Foster. After allowing Foster to score nine points in the first half, Smart shut him out in the final 20 minutes.
“Marcus Smart just locked into Marcus Foster — he taught him a lesson,” Weber said. “Hopefully next time if, we get the opportunity, Marcus (Foster) will react better.”
Foster was somewhat drained in the second half, after spending much of the first half running the Wildcats’ motion offense without the assistance of Spradling, who picked up his second foul less than five minutes into the game, and didn’t play the final 15 minutes of the first half.
Still, even without scoring, Smart said Foster was making their offense work.
“Foster is an unbelievable player,” Smart said. “He’s a freshman, still developing — he’s going to be a really good player. He was keeping them in it, doing some really good things.
“They were running him off a lot of screens, trying to get open any way they can. Just the second half, coach (Travis Ford) told me don’t let him get hot because once he gets hot, it’s hard to stop him.”
Gipson said the Cowboys came out juiced for their senior night activities, and once they got energy from a run, the Wildcats simply didn’t respond.
But the worst part in Gipson’s mind, was that the Wildcats let poor shooting affect their defense. And that’s how the game got out of control.
“Our offense can’t dictate our defense,” Gipson said. “We’ve heard that a million times. We just have to stay focused on the defensive side, and the offense will come.”
The Wildcats were boosted past Iowa State on Saturday with a big performance from the bench, outscoring the Cyclones 38-2. Against the Cowboys, K-State got just 15 points from its bench, as guys like DJ Johnson and Southwell didn’t contribute like they did against Iowa State, combining for just six points.
The Wildcats will play their final game of the regular season on Saturday when K-State hosts Baylor at 12:30 p.m. on senior day.