STILLWATER, Okla. — A five-game road losing streak for Kansas State was snapped Saturday in come-from-behind fashion as the 14th-ranked Wildcats held off Oklahoma State 73-68 Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The win is K-State’s third straight, part of a strong final surge in Big 12 play after losing five of the seven games prior. It is the 10th time in the Big 12 era that the Wildcats have managed to win double-digit games in conference play.
“I hope that everyone who watched today saw their heart out there,” head coach Jerome Tang said. “They just didn’t quit. We told them there was going to be adversity and (they) had to look adversity in the face and smile, and then slap the crap out of it. (That’s what) they did, and I was so proud of them.”
Senior point guard Markquis Nowell led the way, ending things with a game-high 22 points, eight assists, seven turnovers and a co-team-high five rebounds. He was 5-of-12 from the field, 3-of-8 from behind the arc and hit nine of his 10 free throws.
“He steps out there and he lays it on the line,” Tang said. “Win or lose, he’s not afraid of the moment, and I think the guys rally around that.”
Joining Nowell in double-figures was seniors Keyontae Johnson and Desi Sills. Johnson contributed 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including a 3-of-5 mark from 3, and five rebounds, and Sills had 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting while hitting all four of his free throw attempts.
Four other players (Cam Carter, David N’Guessan, Nae’Qwan Tomlin and Ismael Massoud) contributed at least five points in the win.
“We stood together,” Nowell said. “That was the concept coming into the game, just staying together on the road because it’s a hostile environment. And my guys responded well, we got major contributions from everybody tonight. Everybody that stepped in the game helped us.”
The Wildcats (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) nearly trailed by double-digits midway through the second half when a technical foul on Tang turned the tide and allowed K-State to outscore the Cowboys (16-13, 7-9) nearly 2-to-1 down the stretch to secure the win.
“I was demonstrative and I was demonstrative on purpose,” Tang said. “I felt like there was some tick-tack calls that went their way that resulted in and-ones and there were some physical plays that didn’t go our way. But from that point on, it was 24-to-13, and so I believe that inspired our guys to play a little bit harder to fight a little harder, and I felt like it impacted the way the rest of the game was called.”
After Oklahoma State hit their free throws, the game shifted. The Wildcats broke off on a 16-5 run, retaking the lead and stretching it to as much as five with just over five minutes to play after back-to-back 3s from Johnson and Massoud.
From there, the Cowboys got within a bucket twice, but K-State managed to make plays down the stretch the secure the win.
“We just played together,” Johnson said. “We are just trying to go out and have fun. We’ve only got a few more games left as seniors and we are just trying to go out there and get a win.”
K-State used a 7-0 run midway through the first half to jump ahead by five, the Wildcats’ largest lead of the game.
Turnovers were an issue for K-State again in the first half after a fairly clean performance at home versus Baylor on Tuesday. The Wildcats coughed it up eight times in the opening 20 minutes, and the Cowboys turned that into nine points.
Oklahoma State scored 11-straight late in the first half, stretching its lead to as much as six, 35-29, with 1:33 to play.
Senior Caleb Asberry carried the Cowboys early, scoring nine of his 13 points in the first half, while fellow senior Kalib Boone exploded in the second half, scoring 14 of his team-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes.
John-Michael Wright (12 points) and Bryce Thompson (11 points) also reached double-figures.
K-State got the last word, though, scoring the final four points of the half, including a Desi Sills transition layup off a stolen Cowboy inbounds pass that was tipped by Tykei Greene, sending the Wildcats into the break trailing 35-33.
“Give credit to Tykei Greene for coming in and playing,” Sills said. “He was the one that started the steal and I just ended up with the ball and tried to get the momentum going into halftime.”
The win completes just the second Big 12 series sweep that the Wildcats have been able to come away with this season. K-State will have a chance for one more next weekend when they travel to face West Virginia.
“We have some tough dudes, and they believe in each other and they’re the ones that do all the little things to help you execute,” Tang said. “Winning on the road, that to me is the sign of a tough team, and knowing that moving forward, we’ve got a couple more games, but then the Big 12 Tournament is a neutral site and the NCAA Tournament is a neutral site. You’re not gonna have the Octagon of Doom behind you, so you’ve got to be able to win these kinds of games. This is going to help put some more confidence into them.”
The Wildcats did have a friendlier than usual crowd in Stillwater Saturday afternoon as a fairly large contingent of K-State fans made their way south to watch the win.
“It was beautiful,” Nowell said. “They impacted the game with their energy. Whenever they bring that, we also play (well).”
K-State will return home on Wednesday to host Oklahoma for senior night. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.