The Wildcats (5-10, 1-6) fell 76-50 to Oklahoma on Tuesday night. While there were some fresh faces back on the Kansas State lineup, the inexperience and continued absence of freshman Nijel Pack haunted the Wildcats.
K-State struggled to stay healthy this season — since beginning the season back in November, seven players have missed at least one or more games.
Over the past two games, K-State returned three players who missed some extensive playing time this year. Sophomore Antonio Gordon and freshman Luke Kasubke returned on Saturday night against Texas, and redshirt sophomore Kaosi Ezeagu returned on Tuesday night against Oklahoma (8-4, 4-3).
“I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse and keep saying experience but it shows,” Ezeagu said. “Some of these guys that we are playing against have been in the league for multiple years. … You can see the experience difference. I don’t want to use that as an excuse.”
Despite the Wildcats leading 22-17 and fresh off a 6-0 run at the 6:03 mark in the first half, everything fell apart. From the 6:03 mark in the first half to the 14:39 mark in the second half, OU went on a 26-4 run that defined the game and put the Sooners up 44-26.
“It’s the same scenario every game — we’re in the game, we make a nice run, we’re up,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “Then right before the half we do not make the right plays, we don’t make plays.”
After shooting well and holding onto the ball, K-State seemed to dig into a hole that it couldn’t get out of.
After dominating inside the paint and shooting 45 percent from the field during the first 15 minutes of play, the Wildcats seemingly couldn’t do anything. K-State ended the game shooting 36 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers resulting in 20 OU baskets.
“I think that we let their pressure get to us,” Sophomore guard DaJuan Gordon said. “We let it get to us instead of slowing down and taking a breath and realize what they were doing, we were just on attack mode. That’s what got them that lead.”
The Wildcats had 10 scholarship players available for Tuesday night’s game, but the loss of Pack for the past three games loomed large for K-State. Other plays stepped up to fill the void that he has left.
“Obviously it hurts without Nijel, it puts a lot of pressure on those other guards to make plays,” Weber said. “Especially Mike McGuirl, the pressure has really taken a toll on him, we’ve all seen that he’s a better player than that.”
McGuirl, the lone senior the Wildcat squad, finished with three points on 1-of-9 shooting and two rebounds. Pack is set to return after K-State’s tilt with West Virginia this upcoming Saturday.
The 50 points scored in the loss to Oklahoma is the lowest point total for the Wildcats in a little over a year, also hitting that mark last year in a 64-50 loss to Texas.
Two Wildcats managed to get into double-digit scoring as DaJuan Gordon led the way with 13 points, while freshman guard Selton Miguel finished with 11 points. Sophomore guard De’Vion Harmon led all scorers with 16 points for the Sooners.
OU managed to record seven blocks on the night and 23 fast breakpoints.
K-State falls to 5-10 on the season and 1-6 in Big 12 play. The Wildcats take on two top 15 Big 12 opponents in No. 14 West Virginia and No. 2 Baylor, before taking on Texas A&M in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
“We’ve just got to continue to keep practicing and keep getting better, that’s our biggest thing is to keep getting better,” Gordon said. “Whatever our record is, it doesn’t define us, as long as we keep getting better, our character will show where we really are.”
K-State’s home meeting with No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday is set to tip-off at 3 p.m. on ESPN2.