Before last season, the K-State Wildcats had not won a Big 12 season opener in four years. That steak was ended last season when the Wildcats knocked off the then-ranked No. 22 Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Wildcats might have started a new streak on Saturday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum when then downed the No. 6 Cowboys 74-71.
“It’s just a great win. A gutsy win by our guys who kept battling,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “I am not sure it was pretty at times because it seemed like (Oklahoma State) were controlling the game.”
It was the Cowboys who drew first blood, jumping out to a 5-0 lead behind last year’s Big 12 player of the year Marcus Smart. That five point lead would be the Cowboys’ largest of the game. K-State quickly fought back, taking a 8-7 lead thanks to the efforts of junior Nino Williams, who finished the first half with 10 points. Last season Williams had the biggest game of his career against the Cowboys, finishing with 17 points. Williams nearly matched that effort on Saturday as he finished with 16 points.
In the second half, both teams continued to go back and forth. Despite the 12 lead changes in the first half, the Cowboys did not give the lead up so easily in the second half. The Wildcats got their first lead of the second half when senior forward Shane Southwell stepped to the line with 4:47 to go in the game and drained a pair of free throws. From there, the young Wildcats side did not surrender the lead.
“The room for error – and we should know that – is very small when you get into league play especially when you are only the road against a disciplined team like K-State,” Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said.
All season, free throw issues plagued the Wildcats. Even though K-State struggled from the line early, down the stretch they were able to put them away. Freshman Marcus Foster dropped in a layup to give K-State a 65-60 lead with 3:36 left in the contest. This would be the Wildcats largest lead of the day.
It was Williams who had the opportunity to put the game away for the Wildcats, stepping to the charity stripe with 24 seconds left and a three point lead. The Junior from St. Louis hit one of two, pushing the lead to four points. The Cowboys quickly converted on the other end. Sophomore Phil Forte drained a three pointer with eight seconds to go to put the pressure right back onto the home team. Williams once again was fouled and stepped to the line with 5.7 seconds left on the clock with the Wildcats clinging to a one-point lead. This time, the junior was perfect, connecting on both and ultimately sealing the game.
The Wildcats who had started the season with three losses in their first five games. Since that point, the Wildcats have strung together a nine-game winning streak which includes two wins over top-25 opponents.
Every time the Wildcats take the court, freshman Marcus Foster shows why he is perhaps the most underrated freshman in the country. In his first Big 12 game, Foster finished with 17 points and a career-high eight rebounds.
“I just wanted to stay calm and stick to what I do,” Foster said. “I just wanted to be able to play defense, help my teammates when they needed help and score the ball because that is what I am good at.”
The Wildcats will ride their nine-game winning into Fort Worth, TX where they will take on TCU on Tuesday. The winning streak is the longest since K-State’s 10-game winning streak in 2009-2010.
“The guys were definitely excited in the locker room,” Weber said. “Mississippi was huge, Gonzaga was pretty bug, George Washington too, but this was a whole different step for us.”
Tipoff is set for 7:00pm CT on Tuesday for the Wildcats to take on the Horned Frogs.