When the Kansas Jayhawks lost to Oklahoma in their third straight conference defeat Saturday, they left the door wide open for another team to claim its place at the top of the Big 12 standings. The Wildcat men’s basketball team seized the opportunity hours later by beating the Iowa State Cyclones 79-70 in Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State head coach Bruce Weber spoke after the game about what it means to hold the top spot in the Big 12.
“It is a good feeling, but we understand that we are not done by any means,” Weber said. “I told the guys to enjoy, it is a great feeling. However, we will be turning our focus as we get ready for an obviously very tough game on the road against Kansas.”
K-State started the game quickly, beginning with an 11-2 run in the first six minutes, which forced Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg to call a timeout.
The timeout worked for Iowa State. Senior guards Chris Babb and Korie Lucious each hit two 3-pointers during a 21-5 run, giving the Cyclones their biggest lead of the day at 26-19.
Sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez said the team tried to stay together when Iowa State caught fire from beyond the arc.
“We as a team take responsibility when that happens,” Rodriguez said. “The players, the coaches, all of us, we understand what we need to do to prevent that. It is not one person’s job, it’s all of ours, and we responded when they made their run.”
The Wildcats succeeded, and a shot by senior guard Martavious Irving gave K-State a 33-32 lead as the two teams went to intermission.
As they did at the start of the game, the Wildcats came out aggressively, with junior forward Shane Southwell pushing the K-State lead to 46-39 before Iowa State guard Tyrus McGee took over the game.
McGee scored 11 straight points, including a fall-away 3-pointer that tied the game up at 50 with 12:21 left.
That was the last time the Cyclones would be even with the Wildcats. Coach Hoiberg said his team’s inability to rebound the ball was to blame.
“For the first part of the game, we did the things that we needed to do to get the victory,” Hoiberg said. “It was those last 12 minutes of the game where we didn’t rebound or take care of the ball, and that is what did us in. This is one of the hardest places to win our league, and if you do not do those things for 40 minutes, you are not going to get the victory.”
Senior forward Rodney McGruder showed why he is in the running for Big 12 player of the year, finishing with 22 points, while Rodriguez scored 20.
For the Cyclones, it was Lucious and McGee, who scored 16 and 15 points respectively, who helped them stay in the game.
The win puts the Wildcats one game ahead of in-state rival Kansas in the contest for the Big 12 lead as the teams prepare for Monday’s showdown in Lawrence. Despite the magnitude of the upcoming game, McGruder said the team is trying not to dwell on it.
“I know it is a rivalry, so people are going to put more talk into it,” McGruder said. “However, we are preparing for it like we would any other team in our league. We have to go in there and play with confidence, and be ready to compete at a high level.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.