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Sooners hand K-State sixth straight road loss

By Joel Jellison

NORMAN, Okla. — Kansas State’s been here before. It’s been here six times before.

With Saturday’s 86-73 loss at Oklahoma, the Wildcats lost their sixth straight game on the road.

It’s all starting to sound like a broken record for K-State (18-9, 8-6 Big 12), even if this one was over by halftime.

The last four times K-State lost on the road, it had been in close games. But Oklahoma (20-7, 9-5) took control of this one early.

After the teams played to a 7-7 tie in the first four minutes, the Sooners scored seven straight to go ahead 14-7. The Wildcats cut the lead to 17-12 at the 10:25 mark, but Oklahoma took over from there.

The Sooners went on a 21-2 run that featured four 3-pointers, as the hapless Wildcats failed to find an answer. More often than not, the 3s were wide-open shots, and Oklahoma feasted on the open opportunities by making 6 of 13 attempts from long range.

“I think it’s an understatement that we caught them on a day where they were ready to go,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Credit to Oklahoma, they were ripping and roaring and we knew when they get going they can score some points.

“They’re disappointed they got their butts kicked. This league is tough. It’s hard to win at home. It’s hard to win on the road.”

With Oklahoma ahead 38-14, the Wildcats offense finally found a groove in the final 3:33 of the first half, outscoring the Sooners 8-3 the rest of the half to trail 41-22 at halftime — the biggest halftime deficit of the season and most since a 17-point deficit against Georgetown in November’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

“It was disappointing we didn’t come out and play hard, we didn’t compete,” Thomas Gipson said. “By now I’m not surprised. I don’t know what we can do to get an away game. We’ve just got to compete and play harder, and we didn’t do that in the first half.”

The Wildcats’ first half struggles included 10 turnovers that turned into 17 points for the Sooners, while Oklahoma dominated the rebounding battle 21-15 and 9-4 on the offensive glass. Weber said rebounding was ultimately the difference.

The turnovers led to transition and the offensive rebounds led to second chances. And the Sooners did the majority of that damage during their 21-2 run.

“Obviously the turnovers in the first half were a thing that led to easy baskets,” Weber said. “And then once they get an easy basket the get into heat-check mode. The first half I think everyone that played for them scored, they have really balanced scoring, they all shared the basketball and they spread you.”

Things did turn around for the Wildcats in the second half, but not quickly. The Sooners led by as many as 27 points with 9:42 to play before K-State’s fortunes changed. Wesley Iwundu kicked off an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer, with Jevon Thomas knocking down two free throws and Marcus Foster capping with a 3.

Up to that point, Weber said he felt like his team was mostly tentative.

“I thought Jevon was the first guy that finally just took it to the basket and made them react,” he said. “The rest of us went up soft. We just always seemed to be going backward instead of forward.”

After the Sooners pushed their lead back out to 22 points, Foster and Gipson teamed up to lead a 14-4 run that pulled the Wildcats within 12 points with 3:38 to play.

Oklahoma made six straight free throws to eliminate the Wildcats’ chances of coming back, although K-State pulled with 11 points with less than 10 seconds to play after a Nigel Johnson 3-pointer.

Foster led the Wildcats with 21 points, while Johnson had 11 and Gipson chipped in 10 points. The Sooners got 18 points from Buddy Hield, 17 from Isaiah Cousins, 11 from Jordan Woodard and 10 points from Ryan Spangler.

Foster said going forward he has to be more consistent and the team has to find a way to bring the pieces together.

“It’s hurting us right now, we feel like we’re overdue for a road win,” Foster said. “We’ve still got two more road games. We just want to go 2-0 on the road to finish out Big 12 play. Definitely frustrating because we’re so close and people are out playing us at how we’re supposed to play.”

Shane Southwell made his return for the Wildcats, playing 17 minutes and scoring four points after missing the last two games. Weber said they still need Southwell to be fresher for the final four regular-season games.

The freshman foursome of Foster, Iwundu, Thomas and Johnson combined for a season-high 43 points, while the Wildcats lacked an offensive presence from any other upperclassman besides Gipson. No other junior or senior scored more than five points.

“They made shots, but they didn’t guard anybody,” Weber said of his freshmen. “It depends on which way you look at it. We need everybody to play well if we can. If we’re going to have any push, you’ve got to have consistency. Some days you don’t score, but you should do a lot of other things.”

The Wildcats will travel to Texas Tech on Tuesday before hosting Iowa State the following Saturday. The final week of the regular season will feature a pair of teams that entered the weekend still clawing to get into the NCAA tournament in Oklahoma State and Baylor, once picked to finish first and third in the league, respectively.

The Wildcats are no lock for the tournament, by any means, but entered the weekend predicted to fall in the 7 to 8 seed range by ESPN and CBS Sports. To this point, the weakest marks on K-State’s resume are its season-opening loss to Northern Colorado and its poor record on the road in Big 12 play.

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