Wildcats’ bench comes alive in runaway rout

By Cole Manbeck

LUBBOCK, Texas — The last time Kansas State played at Texas Tech, Victor Ojeleye provided a lift from the bench, but in a different way - he loaned Curtis Kelly his shoes.

“He had a new pair of shoes that blew out and I wasn’t going into the game at that point,” Ojeleye recalled. “I just took mine off. We happened to wear the same size. I’d do anything to help us win.”

On Wednesday night, Ojeleye held onto his shoes and produced, scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with four rebounds in 18 minutes of action.

The walk-on senior was one of a handful of guys to provide a lift from the Wildcats’ bench in K-State’s 69-47 victory at Texas Tech on Wednesday.

K-State’s bench outscored the Red Raiders’ bench 38-13, led by senior guard Martavious Irving, who scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Irving has transitioned from the starting lineup to coming off the bench over the last three games, and the result thus far has been three K-State wins.

K-State coach Frank Martin said he’s proud of the way Irving has handled the switch.

“A lot of guys would sulk and pout,” Martin said. “On the contrary, he’s really stepped up and played probably the best three-game stretch he’s ever played at K-State. That’s a credit to him and to how much he cares about the team and our program.”

After a three-minute scoring drought to open Wednesday’s game, Irving, the Wildcats’ best defender, provided a scoring punch. The junior guard scored the first two points of the game, while dishing out four assists to just one turnover on the night.

“I just wanted to provide a spark off the bench,” Irving said. “Do something that was positive because a lot of things weren’t going well early on. I just wanted to provide a lot of energy.”

Irving said the transition from starting to coming off the bench is something he’s enjoying right now.

“It’s not as much pressure,” he said. “When you start, people expect you to be great, an all-league guy. But a lot of times it doesn’t work out that way. I’d think about it a lot. But now I’m just playing basketball.”

Martin said Irving provides the Wildcats consistency off the bench, something they needed. The same goes for Ojeleye.

“When things are a little rattled and as a coach you’re trying to get your team right, you go to people you trust,” he said. “That’s why I went to Martavious and asked him to make that change. That’s why I went to Victor and said, ‘hey man I’m going to start playing you, I need you to play well, relax and do what you do in practice because we need you right now.’ That’s why you’ve seen these two guys step up the way they have.”

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