AMES, Iowa — Facing a big halftime deficit, the 22nd-ranked Kansas State men’s basketball team rallied at No. 16 Iowa State.
But even with all that fight, the Wildcats couldn’t pull off a come-from-behind win, losing to the Cyclones, 81-75, on Saturday in Hilton Coliseum.
(Kansas State’s Marcus Foster fights for a loose ball with Iowa State’s Georges Niang, left, and DeAndre Kane, right, in the second half on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 81-75).
It was the third straight road loss for K-State and second straight loss this week.
Trailing by 12 points to start the second half, the Wildcats went on a 16-4 run to tie the game at 50. The run started with back-to-back baskets from Thomas Gipson — his only points of the game — and then Marcus Foster hit a 3 and made a layup. Shane Southwell would hit a 3-pointer to tie the game.
Foster, who scored seven points during the run, said he came out looking to provide with energy.
“Just trying to get my team a little spark,” said Foster, who finished with a team-high 20 points. “I hit a few shots and it got my team going. But it really all started with us from the defensive end.”
But the Cyclones (15-3, 3-3 Big 12) wasted little time going right back ahead with a 9-0 run in less than two minutes that put them ahead 64-53 with 7:54 left.
K-State (14-6, 4-3) came right back again, getting three 3-pointers from Will Spradling and a dunk by DJ Johnson to tie the game at 66 with 4:57 to play.
Spradling said he felt comfortable with his shot against the Cyclones. He’s averaged more than 11 points per game in Hilton Coliseum during his career and finished with 12 points.
“I got moving,” he said of why his shot was falling. “I hadn’t really shot it on the move much this year, I’ve been more catch and shoot. I feel a lot more comfortable catching it on the move. (Jevon Thomas) did a good job of finding me, I got a good look and I got going.”
Even though K-State trailed by double digits at halftime, Spradling said it didn’t want to allow the game to totally get away like it did against Kansas earlier this season.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” he said. “We were in that situation at KU and we let it go the other way, we knew we weren’t going to come out and let that happen again — we learned from that game.”
Georges Niang made the Cyclones’ only 3 of the second half — after Iowa State made eight in the first 20 minutes — and DeAndre Kane made a layup and a free throw to push the lead back to six.
The Wildcats cut the deficit to 74-71 with three minutes remaining after Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim was assessed a technical foul and Spradling a personal foul when the two got tangled up going for a loose ball.
But the shooting went cold for K-State from there, and after an Ejim basket, the Cyclones made five free throws in the final 31 seconds to hold on for the win.
K-State coach Bruce Weber said his team had its chances, but the first half deficit was too much to overcome.
“We made the run, we had the opportunities down the stretch,” he said. “We just didn’t make the plays.”
Weber thought his team fought hard, but had to use a lot of energy to constantly come back from behind.
“I think it takes a toll every time you come back,” he said. “You’ve got to expend energy. They’re a team a lot like Oklahoma — we were very fortunate with Oklahoma — we got the run at the right time and we made some stops.”
The Cyclones found their success in the first half by making 8 of 11 from behind the arc and shooting 61 percent overall.
But the game really turned in Iowa State’s favor with a late run in the first half, a 12-2 surge in the final 90 seconds before halftime.
The Wildcats started the game well, getting out to a 15-11 lead with help from 3s by Foster, Southwell and Spradling. But right as K-State’s offense began to sputter, Iowa State’s took off.
The Cyclones made four straight 3-pointers, with one each from Kane and Niang and two from Matt Thomas, to go ahead 23-18. Iowa State would extend its lead to 30-22 before the Wildcats turned in a 6-2 run and then scored four straight to get within two points.
Foster said he thought K-State missed out on a chance to build a lead on the Cyclones before they got hot from behind the arc.
Weber said the Cyclones 3-point barrage started with forced shots and quick possessions on K-State’s end.
“I thought we started really well, got good movement, then we got a little stagnant,” he said. “We took quick shots, which allowed them to get in transition and they made 3s. That’s always your fear with them.”
Southwell finished with 14 points. Gipson, who had a career-high 24 points earlier in the week at Texas, finished with only four points on Saturday.
Weber said they need more from both going forward.
“Gip didn’t play very well,” he said. “You’ve got to give them credit, they double-teamed him, but I thought he was very impatient. (Shane’s) got to play better. He and Thomas have to play better. The freshmen struggled the other day at Texas, (Saturday) these two guys didn’t play their best basketball.”
Ejim led the Cyclones with 20 points, while Niang scored 18 and Kane had 10.
The Wildcats are likely to drop out of the Top 25 on Monday after the two straight losses. Both times K-State has climbed into the national polls this season, it has been knocked out the following the week.
K-State returns to Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday to host Texas Tech at 7 p.m.