Wildcats rally for rare road victory

By Joel Jellison

LUBBOCK, Texas — It’s easy to admit now, but Kansas State’s Marcus Foster thought it was going to happen again.

After all, the freshman guard had seen it six straight times on the road already.

“I was thinking, ‘here we go, it’s going to happen again,’” said Foster, who had a game-high 17 points Tuesday night. “‘Another road loss.’”

Foster said that familiar feeling crept in once Texas Tech took the lead with 1:19 remaining.

But down two points, freshman Wesley Iwundu delivered the play of the game for the Wildcats when he completed a clutch three-point play with 55 seconds left, giving K-State the lead for good and sending the Wildcats to a 60-56 victory at United Spirit Arena.

It’s K-State’s first road win since Jan. 7 when the Wildcats won at TCU — the only conference team without a Big 12 victory this season.

“It’s an understatement that it was a good win for us,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “A lot of things didn’t go well throughout the game. We kept talking about how bad do you want it? Keep fighting, keep believing and good things will happen.”

It took a while for those good things to happen for the Wildcats (19-9, 9-6 Big 12). The Red Raiders (13-15, 5-10) turned a one-point halftime lead into a 38-29 advantage with 13 minutes to play after K-State missed seven straight shots to open the second half.

With Texas Tech ahead 42-34, Red Raiders’ forward Jordan Tolbert fouled Iwundu hard along the baseline, resulting in a flagrant foul. Iwundu — who finished with 12 points, including 6 of 7 from the foul line — made both shots. Foster then hit a 3-pointer to swiftly get the Wildcats within three points of the lead with 8:50 to play.

Two minutes later, the Red Raiders fouled Foster on a 3-pointer that dropped in. Foster added a free throw for the four-point play.

Will Spradling then got in on the action when he knocked down a 3 with 4:28 left to complete a 20-5 run and put the Wildcats ahead 54-47.

Winning aside, it was a special night for the senior, as Spradling became the 21st player in K-State history to score 1,000 career points on his 3-pointer in his 100th career start.

“I just felt we deserved those plays, really,” Foster said of the Wildcats’ comeback. “We just play so hard. I feel when you play hard you end up getting the ball to bounce your way, like me hitting the four-point play, then Will hitting shots, Wesley rebounding — that’s what happens when you play hard — good things happen to you.”

The good feelings didn’t last long, though. Out of a timeout, the Red Raiders scored immediately, then stole the ball from Spradling and scored again. Then the Wildcats — who shot 40 percent in the game — had a difficult time breaking Tech’s press, as K-State was whistled for a 10-second violation, handing the ball right back to the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech then found Tolbert, who was wrapped up by Nino Williams as he made the shot. Officials initially called a foul on Williams, but reviewed it and charged him with a flagrant foul, giving the Red Raiders the two points, two additional free throws and the ball.

Tolbert made just one of the free shots and the Red Raiders didn’t score again the rest of the way.

“I just kept saying ‘come on, just keep fighting,’ and ‘you’ve got to believe’ and ‘something good will happen,’ and then Nino gets the flagrant foul and they get the points, and the two free throws and the ball,” Weber said. “You get that lead and then all of the sudden it’s gone.

“We’ve been in this situation a whole bunch and you were hoping, and I guess praying, that something good will happen to us. And it did.”

Foster lost the handle on the ensuing K-State possession, leaving Williams diving on the ground for the ball. He scooped it up, passed it off to Spradling, who dished it to Iwundu. The freshman attacked the basket, drove through Texas Tech guard Dusty Hannahs along the way for the layup and earned the foul call that sent him to the line for the key three-point play in the final minute.

A Texas Tech crowd of more than 12,000 — including a Big 12-record 6,086 students — erupted on the play, some even throwing free noisemakers and foam fingers onto the floor.

Iwundu, despite his recent struggles at the free-throw line, made the free throw to put K-State ahead by one with 55 seconds left.

“Wes really played well, a lot more determined,” Weber said. “Even the players got on Wes a little bit about coming back to us and getting some things done.”

Spradling made 1 of 2 free throws with 19 seconds to go, giving the Red Raiders a shot to tie the game or take the lead. But Tech point guard Robert Turner dribbled into the corner and lost the ball to Foster, who grabbed it and threw it up the court where the Wildcats dribbled out most of the clock and Iwundu capped the game with a layup.

“It was definitely a happy moment, “Foster said. “It’s been a long time coming with a road win.”

Spradling and Thomas Gipson joined Foster and Iwundu in double figures with 10 points each. Dejan Kravic led the Red Raiders with 13 points.

With the win over Texas Tech, Weber became the winningest coach at K-State in the first two seasons, passing Lon Kruger with 46 wins.

The Wildcats will host Iowa State on Saturday at 6 p.m. and then travel to Oklahoma State the following Monday night. K-State finishes its season at home against Baylor on March 8.

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