Wildcats outlast Cyclones, 80-73

By Joel Jellison

Every time Kansas State did something positive on Saturday, Iowa State seemed to answer.

Whether it was the Cyclones coming back from an early 11-point deficit in the first half, or closing the gap to tie the game at 69 with two minutes to play, 15th-ranked Iowa State wouldn’t go away Saturday.

(Kansas State’s Shane Southwell makes one of his four 3-pointers on Saturday night against Iowa State at Bramlage Coliseum. Southwell finished with 13 points in the Wildcats’ 80-73 victory).

But after the Cyclones tied the game, the Wildcats finally got what they needed to finish off Iowa State when Will Spradling buried a 3-pointer to spark an 11-4 run that ended the game and gave K-State an 80-73 win in Bramlage Coliseum.

It was the 15th straight home win for the Wildcats — a Bramlage record — and the first time K-State has ever beaten five Top-25 teams at home in one season.

Iowa State (22-6, 10-6 Big 12) initially made things close with 10:56 to play, coming back from a five-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 55. Just a little more than a minute later, Melvin Ejim drained a 3 to put the Cyclones ahead 58-56.

After the Wildcats (20-9, 10-6) reclaimed the lead at 60-59, DeAndre Kane made a 3 with K-State freshman Marcus Foster guarding him closely to put Iowa State ahead two points again.

With Iowa State leading 62-61, Foster made a pair of free throws and Spradling scored his first field goal of the game to put the Wildcats ahead by three with 4:37 left.

On the next play, Kane drove through Foster under the basket, and then appeared to step down hard on Foster’s face after the play. Officials reviewed the play, but found no malice on the part of Kane, who made 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to two.

Foster answered on the next play, though. With just one made basket to his name— the first points of the game — the freshman rose up and knocked down a 3-pointer to put K-State ahead 68-63 with 3:59 left.

Iowa State drove right back into the game though, tying it on a 3 from Dante Morris at 69. That’s when Spradling made his only 3 of the contest with 1:33 left. Foster and Wesley Iwundu each made a pair of shots from the free-throw line before Iowa State could get two shots to go from the line to make it 76-71.

Iwundu scored on a transition play and was fouled by Iowa State’s Georges Niang with 36 seconds left. He made the free throw to complete the three-point play and put the Wildcats ahead by eight. Iowa State couldn’t get a basket to go until the nine-second mark of the game.

“We just talked about how we’ve been here before,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the final two minutes. “You’ve got to make some stops, you’ve got to earn it.”

The Wildcats put up big points early in the first half. Trailing 9-4, Nigel Johnson hit a 3-pointer that opened up a 16-0 run that pushed K-State ahead 20-9. The run featured a trio of 3-pointers from Shane Southwell and four points from DJ Johnson — all 16 points coming from the bench.

“I feel like we’re not skipping a heartbeat once the second group comes in,” Thomas Gipson said. “DJ plays extremely hard, he plays harder than me at times and it gives our team a boost of energy, and people want to play harder. At any time one of the guys on the bench can be the star player and get a key win for us.”

Weber said the key during the run was K-State’s defense, which got the Cyclones off balance. But Iowa State managed to get back with a late 9-2 run in the final four minutes to close the gap before halftime.

Southwell started the game 4 for 4 — all 3-pointers — seemingly breaking out of a slump that’s plagued him since early February. The senior finished with a team-high 13 points, but finished the game 4 of 12 from the floor. After the game, Southwell said he felt like he took baby steps forward toward getting better with his shot.

“Coach has been on me a lot about staying disciplined and I think for the most part I stayed disciplined,” he said. “I was talking to myself while the ball was coming toward me, like stay disciplined on your shot. I think that was the key to my shot today.”

(Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu shoots over Iowa State’s Dustin Hogue on Saturday night at Bramlage Coliseum. Iwundu had all 11 of his points in the second half).

The Wildcats’ bench dominated Iowa State’s bench, outscoring it 38-2. The Cyclones used just seven players, with its two bench guys combining for 28 minutes. Weber said he felt comfortable going 10-deep with his bench.

DJ Johnson had the second-best performance off the bench, scoring 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in just 16 minutes. Gipson, meanwhile, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Foster scored 11 points for the Wildcats and Iwundu added 11 points as well.

Iowa State was paced by Ejim’s 30-point, 16-rebound night, while Kane had 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists. K-State held Niang to eight points, while Dustin Hogue had 12 rebounds.

K-State was outrebounded, 45-38, including 20-12 on offensive boards.

“It was a bar fight,” Southwell said. “They have two really good offensive rebounders in Ejim and Hogue, they just sit there and they get a body on you. It’s tough because of all the helping and dribble driving so they’re just on the weak side. We didn’t do a good job boxing them out at all - but we tried.”

The Wildcats managed to make 23 of 29 shots from the free-throw line, even though four of those misses came down the stretch in the final four minutes. Weber was happy with the performance, and even joked about freshman guard Jevon Thomas making both of his free throws.

“When Jevon made two you knew we were cut in,” he said. “You’ve got to give Jevon a little credit — it hasn’t not been easy on him. That’s usually their strength, but we were able to at least be close to it. First half we didn’t get to the bonus, again. Second half we were a little more to the basket and got some second chance opportunities that led to fouls and free throws.”

With the win and losses from Texas and Iowa State, the Wildcats moved into second place in the Big 12 standings ahead of Monday’s game at Oklahoma State at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Although four teams currently have a 10-6 record, the Wildcats are the only team with a win over each team and a win over first-place Kansas, which gives them the tiebreaker for the second spot. There are two games remaining before the Big 12 tournament begins on March 12.

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