Despite scoring 85 points and shooting nearly 56 percent from the floor, the Wildcats were bounced in the second round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship tournament by the No. 16 Iowa State Cyclones 91-85.
“I guess (it was) an entertaining game,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “I’m not sure we guarded as well. I know we didn’t guard as well as we needed to.”
The big play what proved to be the Wildcat’s best offensive performance all season came in the final 30 seconds, when the Wildcats found themselves trailing by two points. Senior guard Omari Lawrence ripped down a rebound and found senior forward Shane Southwell. Knowing the Wildcats had only 30 seconds to get a bucket, Southwell took off for the basket. Driving into a well guarded basket, Southwell lost the ball, sealing the Wildcats’ fate.
“I had total tunnel vision,” Southwell said. “I’m thinking, ‘Down two, get to the basket, get a layup or get fouled.’ I only saw Niang and a couple people trailing back for Iowa State. In my mind I’m thinking get to the basket. He doesn’t really want to foul, he has four fouls.”
Despite the late turnover, Southwell had one of his better performances of the season, finishing with 19 points and seven rebounds.
The two teams battled back and forth for much of the game, which featured 11 ties and eight lead changes. Both teams found help from an unsung hero on the day. For Iowa State, junior forward Dustin Hogue finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. K-State freshman guard Nigel Johnson was the x-factor for the Wildcats, scoring a career-high 17 points.
“It was big,” Southwell said. “We pride ourselves on our bench play and next man up. So [Nigel] really played well. He’s a really talented player.”
Foul trouble plagued both teams throughout the span of the game. Freshman guard Marcus Foster picked up his fourth foul with nearly 10 minutes to play and was forced to sit for much of the second half. For Iowa State, senior guard DeAndre Kane fouled out with four minutes to go in the game.
Despite limited playing time in the second half, Foster lead the way for the Wildcats when we was on the floor finishing with 21 points and four assists. Iowa State senior forward and Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim led all scorers with 24 points. Ejim also ripped down 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards.
The Wildcats will now wait until Sunday to find out where they will head next in the postseason. Though they have dropped their last three games, K-State will likely enter the NCAA tournament, where they will have the chance to redeem their latest loss to the Cyclones.
“I hope it’s a motivator,” Weber said.