Kansas State used scoring balance with four players in double figures and clutch free throw shooting to snap a 10-game road losing streak, as the Wildcats opened Big 12 play with a 74-65 win over Iowa State on Tuesday night in front of a limited capacity crowd of 1,337 fans at Hilton Coliseum.
The win was the first in a Big 12 opener since a 91-75 win at Iowa State on Dec. 29, 2017, while it was the first in a Big 12 road game since a 64-52 victory at TCU on March 4, 2019, which snapped a 9-game skid.
K-State (3-4, 1-0 Big 12) took control of the game with a 13-0 run over a 4-minute span early in the first half then used clutch shooting from the field and from the line to earn its third win in its last 4 visits to Hilton Coliseum.
The Wildcats were solid from the field, connecting on 44 percent (22-of-50) from the field, including 52 percent (13-of-25) in the first half, but were nearly perfect from the free throw line, converting on 26 of 29 attempts, including an 11-of-11 effort from sophomore DaJuan Gordon. The 89.7 free throw percentage was the 10th-highest with a minimum of 20 attempts in a game in school history and the highest since the team hit on 22 of 24 attempts (91.7 percent) in a win at Vanderbilt on Dec. 2, 2017.
Four Wildcats scored in double figures, including a special performance from Gordon, who earned his first career double-double with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in a career-best 38 minutes. Freshman forward Davion Bradford earned his second straight double-digit scoring game with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and a 4-of-4 effort from the free throw line, while reserves Carlton Linguard, Jr., and Rudi Williams added 10 points each.
K-State broke open a tight game midway through the first half with a 13-0 run after Iowa State had taken a 14-13 lead on a steal and dunk by freshman Xavier Foster with 13:48 before halftime. Four players contributed points during the run, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Linguard, as the Wildcats built a 40-26 lead at the break.
K-State held a double-digit lead for much of the second half and seemed to have an answer to any type of run by ISU. Five times the Cyclones cut the deficit to single digits only to see the Wildcats respond with either a key basket or free throws. After junior Tyler Harris’ 3-pointer cut it to 67-60 with 1:35 to play, three Wildcats (Gordon, Selton Miguel and Williams) combined to go 7 of 8 from the free throw line to close out the 74-65 victory.
The earliest conference game in school history and just the third in December marked a unique moment, as the Wildcats started three true freshmen (Bradford, Miguel and Nijel Pack) in a conference game for the first time. And although the trio weren’t as potent offensively as their last outing against Milwaukee on Dec. 11 when they accounted for 47 points, the freshmen still combined for 30 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 steals. In addition to Bradford’s 14 points, Miguel and Pack each added 8 points and collected a season-high 3 steals each.
Iowa State (1-3, 0-1 Big 12), which has lost 3 in a row since winning its season opener over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 29, was led by junior Rasir Bolton’s game-high 19 points.