K-State earns another ‘grind out’ win at home

Sophomore forward Wesley Iwundu drives through Texas Tech players to the basket in the opening minutes of the second half of the Wildcats' 58-51 win over the Red Raiders January 14, 2015, in Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Bruce Weber left Stillwater, Oklahoma frustrated. He did not leave hopeless.

After K-State dropped a third-consecutive game, moving to 7-7 on the year, Weber gave fans reason to remain calm.

He insisted that the team was just a few possessions away from a trio of wins rather than the three results they were left with. While that did hold some weight, the objective still remained: wake up and win some games.

Well, what a difference a week makes.

K-State first earned a gutsy home win against TCU before traveling to Oklahoma to face the No. 16-ranked Sooners. Again, gutsy was the theme. And again, K-State came away on top.

Wednesday, the Wildcats (10-7, 3-1) capped off the three-game stretch with their third win, this time a 58-51 victory over Texas Tech (10-7, 0-4). It was the sixth time this season the Wildcats held an opponent under 60 points, as the team positioned itself near the top of the Big 12 conference.

“Each game is different,” Weber said after the game. “With TCU and Oklahoma, I thought we were very, very focused and our preparation was great. If more guys make plays — if Marcus (Foster) and Wesley (Iwundu) make plays, if Justin (Edwards) makes plays and Jevon (Thomas) makes his layups — it’s a lot easier on me as a coach.”

The Wildcats led by as much as 14 points Wednesday. But each K-State run was met with a strong response from the Red Raiders, including one that transpired from a call in K-State’s favor.

The call was a technical foul on Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith with 3:58 to play in the first half. It led to four-straight free throws for the Wildcats, and to their largest lead.

However, Smith’s team responded with an 8-2 run to close out the first half and a 13-6 run right out of the break.

That cut the K-State lead down to one with more than 14 minutes to play in the ballgame. K-State was able to hang onto the win with a strong defensive effort, holding Texas Tech to 33.9 percent shooting from the field, and late-game free throws (five of six in the final 30 seconds) despite being out-rebounded 38-30 in the game.

“We can’t get complacent,” sophomore guard Marcus Foster said. “We have a 14-point lead, we have to get it to 20, especially right before halftime, because that’s how you put a team away. They came out and hit shots to bring them back closer, but we just have to keep defending. Even when we get up, we have to keep defending and put them away.”

Foster finished the game with 14 points in his second game back in the starting lineup. The sophomore guard was just three of nine from the field, but hit six of his eight chances from the charity stripe to lead K-State.

Wesley Iwundu added 10 points in his best performance since Dec. 20’s win against Texas A&M; in Kansas City, Missouri. Justin Edwards and Thomas Gipson combined for 17 points on 40 percent shooting to round out K-State’s top scorers on a night where “gritty” or “ugly” was best used to describe the action.

“I feel almost all our games are going to be like this in the Big 12, because every team is so good,” Foster said. “This one is definitely going to help us down the road.”

K-State will now look forward to big week in which it’ll face two top-25 teams in No. 22 Baylor and No. 11 Iowa State. The game against the Bears is slated for Saturday with tipoff at 2 p.m from Bramlage Coliseum.