Kruger-led Oklahoma upsets Cats

By Cole Manbeck

NORMAN, Okla. — Frank Martin isn’t a believer in the concept that teams need to lose to learn a lesson. But the Kansas State coach admitted his team needed to get beat down on Saturday at Oklahoma, and that’s exactly what happened.

The Sooners, 10-5 overall and 0-3 in Big 12 play heading into Saturday, thoroughly dominated the 18th-ranked Wildcats, defeating them 82-73 in the Lloyd Noble Center.

“We needed this,” Martin said. “We needed this as a team. You lose to Baylor the way we did and it hurts your feelings. You know what this does? This either gets your attention and now you get some of it right or it makes you pack your bags and go home. It makes you soul-search. It’s reality.

“This will make us better.”

The Wildcats (12-4, 1-3) suffered a difficult loss to No. 4 Baylor on Tuesday, and there seemed to be a hangover-effect that carried into Saturday.

“You played the number four team and you lose close. Everything is supposed to be hunky dory, so close,” Martin said. “Now you play a team that’s supposedly not as good as Baylor and you get absolutely shellacked and you don’t do many things that you practice.

“That makes you go home and look in the mirror. If you’re a man, the guy in the mirror isn’t going to lie to you. If you’re going to look at the other mirror hoping you get another excuse from someone else, you get exposed. That’s what this kind of game does to you.”

K-State fell behind 7-0 in the opening two minutes, shot two air-balls and recorded a shot-clock-violation. At the 4:44-mark of the first half, the Wildcats were 8-of-25 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point distance.

At halftime, K-State trailed 38-29. Rodney McGruder and Will Spradling had combined to shoot 2-of-17 from the floor, including 1-of-7 from 3, with all five points coming from McGruder.

“We didn’t come out with any energy,” said Spradling, who finished with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting. “We came out flat. If you come into anybody else’s gym and you come out flat you’re going to get punched. When we got punched we didn’t really hit them back. We just let them control the game and then once we started trying to make our run it was too late.”

K-State made two runs in the second half, but they were short-lived. The Wildcats cut a 14-point deficit in half on a Spradling jumper with 11:45 left in the game. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger called a timeout, and his team responded, using a 6-0 run to build a 60-47 advantage just one minute after the timeout.

The Wildcats eventually fell behind 69-51 with 8:27 remaining, but answered with a 10-0 run to make it 69-61 with 6:39 left. Kruger once again called a timeout, and whatever the former K-State head coach said, worked.

The Sooners scored five straight points, taking a 74-61 lead. The Wildcats, who never led in the game, would cut the deficit to seven on a McGruder 3 at the 3:34-mark, but that was as close as they would get.

“Every time we got it back into a close game we just needed that one stop or that one rebound and we wouldn’t get it,” Spradling said. “We just were making silly mistakes at the beginning and at the end we weren’t getting stops that we needed.”

K-State had no answer on the defensive end. Oklahoma, which entered Saturday shooting 43 percent from the field on the season — the second-worst mark in the Big 12 — connected on 28-of-51 (55 percent) from the floor against the Wildcats.

The Sooners, who were making just 34 percent in their first three Big 12 games, shot 70 percent in the second half and made 85 percent from the foul line.

In K-State’s last two games, the opponent has now shot a combined average of 54 percent from the field, something Martin said has to stop in a hurry.

“When the Baylor game ended the other night, Stan Weber interviewed me after the game. And everyone says ‘that guy, what a crusty guy.’ What’d I say? You want to win these kind of games, we better get better defensively. Obviously we weren’t any good.”

K-State shot 39 percent from the floor, but dominated on the boards, outrebounding Oklahoma, the top rebounding team in the league, by 20. K-State grabbed 24 offensive boards to the Sooners’ six, but the Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times, and Oklahoma took advantage, outscoring K-State 30-20 on points off turnovers.

“If you eliminate the Missouri game, we’re averaging 20 turnovers a game in Big 12 play,” Martin said. “It’s going to be hard to win many games when you do that.”

McGruder led K-State with 19 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Nino Williams, who has played sparingly this season, scored 12 points and collected nine boards while Jeremy Jones added another 12 points, nine of which came in the first half.

But the Wildcats had no answer for Oklahoma’s Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby, who combined to make 15 of their 18 shots for 39 points.

The Sooners certainly looked better than a 0-3 team in the league, but part of that was due to the play of K-State.

“That’s why I tell you guys that cover our team all the time, don’t pay attention to team’s records, it’s irrelevant in this league,” Martin said. “Did Oklahoma look like a team that was 0-3 in conference play? Those kids are good, they’re very well coached, they’ve got very good players. They came out today with a purpose, we didn’t and we got exposed.”

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