The Kansas State Wildcats desperately needed a win entering Wednesday night. After losing their starting point guard and their second conference game already this past weekend, a potential NCAA tournament berth could hinge on winning almost every time out at home. K-State got that big win at Bramlage Coliseum, knocking off Oklahoma State 86-82.
In what is already a hyper-competitive season in the Big 12, every single game makes a difference. After starting the season 1-2 in the league, any more losses could derail, at least partially, the Wildcats’ eventual postseason hopes. With teams like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Kansas playing so well at the top of the conference, along with competitive teams in the middle and bottom as well, Big 12 wins will be at a premium this year.
Early on, the Wildcats were playing as well as they have since their Big 12 opener against Iowa State. K-State controlled the first half until the final three minutes of the period, when it suddenly stopped doing what had worked so well for the first 17 minutes. Oklahoma State got to the rim with ease and K-State stopped making smart decisions offensively, leading to the Cowboys’ 34-33 halftime lead.
A major reason why OSU got back into the game was a decisive rebounding advantage, specifically on the offensive glass. The Cowboys pulled down nine offensive boards in the first half, which led to six second-chance points.
The second half started well for the Wildcats, specifically for junior guard Barry Brown, who will have to pick up some extra slack with Kamau Stokes out. Brown helped swing the early second half momentum for K-State, scoring eight points in six minutes to start the period.
“I told Barry, Dean [Wade] and Mason [Schoen], you guys have to lead, you have to help us,” coach Bruce Weber said. “We jumped on Barry’s back.”
A majority of the second half essentially featured K-State just trying to do enough to hold off OSU. Brown continued to do all he could offensively as the two teams traded baskets on and off.
Oklahoma State wouldn’t give in, though, tying the game at 58 with 6:56 remaining with a quick 6-0 run of its own. But, in the end, K-State was able to pull ahead and didn’t look back. Thanks to some clutch free throws down the stretch, the Wildcats held on to win 86-82.
The Wildcats ended up shooting 38 percent for the game after making half their shots in the first half, while holding the Cowboys to just 28 percent from the floor. The aforementioned free throws down the stretch were huge for K-State, as it made 22 of its last 25 attempts from the charity stripe.
After the game, Weber had positive things to say about freshman guard Cartier Diarra, who started in place of Stokes on Wednesday.
“Saturday night, we come back and he wants to watch film,” Weber said. “He wants to be successful. If you have that desire to be successful, good things will happen.”
Brown finished with a career-high 38 points on Wednesday night. Sophomore forward Xavier Sneed, despite having minimal impact offensively, led K-State in rebounds with 12. Brandon Averette led Oklahoma State in scoring with 22 points.
Next up for K-State is the Sunflower Showdown on Saturday, when the Wildcats will head to Lawrence to take on Kansas at 11 a.m.