K-State earns first Big 12 win

Freshman guard Kamau Stokes pops up a 3-point shot in the game against Texas Tech on January 12, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum. Stokes sunk a total of four 3-point goals for a total of 17 points, and tied as the top scorer with junior forward Wesley Iwundu. (Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

K-State returned home to Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday night hopeful for—scratch that—needing, a win.

The Wildcats fulfilled that need, topping Texas Tech 83-70.

“We’ve just been feeling all week like this is a very important game,” junior forward Wesley Iwundu said. “Every game is important, but this one was really, really important. It’s a two game homestand, so you’ve got to protect home court in these must-win games.”

K-State was borderline embarrassed last Saturday when they faced Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. Although the final score was only a 10-point deficit, the game itself told a different story as the Wildcats fell to 0-3 in the Big 12.

That game against Oklahoma was highlighted by a slow start that put the Wildcats in a deep hole before the game was hardly underway. Tuesday was quite the opposite of that slow start, as K-State jumped on the Red Raiders early with an 8-3 lead. While 5 points isn’t a huge margin, it was just the spark that the Wildcats needed early on to power themselves to their first Big 12 win.

K-State had offensive production in the first half, early and throughout the first 20 minutes. That has not been common of this team this year. The offensive success, 61.5% and hitting 8 of 12 three-pointers, helped the Wildcats take a 47-31 lead to the halftime break.

“Obviously when you make shots, that helps,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “It changes the dynamic of the game. We were able to make some 3’s–in the first half it was eight, and then a couple in the second half. That has not been our forte by any means.”

That scoring onslaught was led by freshman point guard Kamau Stokes who was unconscious all evening shooting the ball, leading the team with 17 points while going 6-8 from the floor and 4-5 from three.

“It’s always a lot of fun when you’re making shots,” Stokes said. “We executed and played good defense which helps get out fast breaks. We had a lot of fast breaks this game.”

It felt as if K-State would coast to this win, but Texas Tech had other plans in mind.

The 16-point deficit did not discourage the Red Raiders, as they jumped out to a quick 13-4 run to start the second half and cut the lead down to 7 points.

Texas Tech made the second half interesting and brought what was once a blowout ballgame down to a 5-point deficit at the 11:18 mark.

But K-State’s Barry Brown dropped in a layup that started an 11-0 run, and then capped off the run with an authoritative backwards dunk to force a Texas Tech timeout with 6:58 to play.

“You get stops, and I’ve told them that if we get stops, we win all those games,” Weber said of the 11-0 run. “Even if we don’t score against West Virginia or against Texas, we still win games if we get the stops. And then the stops created fast breaks.

The game wasn’t over, but it gave the Wildcats that last push they needed to close it out.

Wesley Iwundu and Bruce Weber both entered this game knowing that the junior needed to step up his game, as he has struggled as of recently. Any struggles that Iwundu had prior to Tuesday night were left in the past.

“He was a stat stuffer tonight,” Weber said. “17 (points), 6 (rebounds), 4 (assists.) He did so much stuff for us.”

K-State will continue to work at improving throughout the week. They know that the slate does not get any easier as they push through their Big 12 schedule. On Saturday they will welcome in No. 17/18 Iowa State who is 12-4 and 1-3 in Big 12 play. The Cyclones will come in riding a 2-game losing streak and will be fighting hard for a necessary Big 12 win, just like K-State.

“Our league is crazy,” Weber said. “It’s very balanced. We’re going to beat each other up all year. We just have to keep worrying about ourselves and get every victory we can.”