K-State rallies to knock off No. 12 Iowa State

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Sophomore forward Wesley Iwundu breaks for the basket unobstructed after intercepting an inbound pass from Iowas State forward Georges Niang, ready to make the game-winning dunk and to put the 'Cats up 70-69 in the final seconds of the Wildcats' knockoff of the #12-ranked Cyclones on Feb. 28, 2015 in Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Bruce Weber has been quick to point out the number of top-25 wins K-State has secured this season. The campaigning, in part, is because the Wildcats need help to earn a postseason berth. It’s also to show his team what they can accomplish.

K-State added another tally to its top-25 column Saturday, stunning No. 12 Iowa State 70-69 at a packed Bramlage Coliseum to earn back-to-back wins over a ranked opponent.

“We’re the best 15-15 team in the country,” Weber said after the game. “You’re happy, but you’re also sad because it easily could have been a lot different.”

K-State (15-15, 8-9) used a 22-9 run down the stretch to upset the Cyclones (20-8, 10-6). It was the 12th-largest comeback in school history and the biggest since 2011.

The Wildcats overcame two double-digit deficits in the second half, Iowa State connecting on 11 3-pointers and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Georges Niang scoring 21 points.

In the closing seconds, Wesley Iwundu missed a free throw to put K-State up three points. Iowa State made him pay with and bucket and a foul on the other end by Monte Morris.

Iwundu responded with perhaps the biggest play of the week for K-State. He jumped an Iowa State inbounds pass, drove to the basket uncontested and threw down a two-handed dunk to secure the win.

“It was just a lot of emotions running through my mind, through my body,” Iwundu said. “I was just protecting the rim, and then I saw the guy curl so I stepped up and made a big play.”

Iwundu finished with 11 points. He was one of three K-State players who finished in double-figures.

Sophomore guard Nigel Johnson, who scored a career-high 20 points Monday against No. 8 Kansas, led the team once again with 17 points on 7-13 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.

“Not only the point, but the rebounds might be more than he has had all year total,” Weber said. “It is all we have harped on him all year is rebounding. He played with a lot of confidence and gave us a nice boost. We have been struggling with scoring at times, but he gave us a nice boost. I thought he was really aggressive getting to the backset in the second half as well.”

Iowa State entered Saturday’s matchup third in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage at 36 percent. The Cyclones did even better in the first half, hitting 53 percent (8-14) of their attempts from behind the arc.

Niang led the charge with four 3-pointers to finish with 12 first-half points. However, after jumping out to a 10-2 lead, Iowa State saw K-State fight back with a 10-0 run to go up 12-10.

Iowa State retook the lead soon after and went up by as much as 14 points in the first half before the two sides went into the half with the visitors up 40-33.

In the second half, K-State chipped away at the Cyclones’ lead with defensive pressure, 50 percent field goal shooting and the benefit of Iowa State shot’s not longer finding the bottom of the net.

“They pressure you really well in this building, there is no doubt about that,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “This is a team that has won eight league games, and they have been very good at home. We expected them to come out and pressure us and play us very tough, and they did. They really guard you in this building.”

K-State now has the third-most wins over top-25 opposition in the country, but is still just .500 with one game to go before the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

“This is the most interesting team I’ve every played on, with the games we’ve win and the games we’ve lost,” Iwundu said. “It’s been a very up and down, roller coaster-type year, but I’ve enjoyed it and I wouldn’t trade my teammates for anything. We have to finish off strong and go out on a good note.”

K-State will now have time to rest — a week’s worth, in fact — before it travels to Austin, Texas to take on the Longhorns next Saturday.

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