Wildcats cap off regular season with 61-56 win over Iowa State

Freshman forward Davion Bradford goes up for a shot while being guarded by an Iowa State defender in K-State's 61-56 victory over the Cyclones on Saturday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Scott Weaver)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team concluded its regular season with a 61-56 victory over Iowa State on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats (8-19, 4-14) finished the regular season winning three out of five contests and showed significant improvement since the 13-game losing streak ended on Feb. 20 against TCU.

“I’m just happy for our guys,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “They have endured, persevered, and been resilient.”

Senior guard Mike McGuirl scored 17 points and a huge supporting cast throughout the game. Sophomore guard DaJuan Gordon and freshman guard Nijel Pack scored double-digit nights and every Wildcat who played made the scoresheet.

The Wildcats finished the night shooting 38 percent from the floor.

Iowa State (2-21, 0-18) is the lone team in the Big 12 held winless in the conference going into Saturday’s game. The Cyclones entered the matchup as the worst defensive team in the conference, allowing 77.3 points per game with a scoring margin of -11.64 on the season.

Senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands led all scorers with 19 points, and senior forward Solomon Young finished with 18 points for the Cyclones in the loss. Iowa State shot 36 percent from the floor and 22 percent from three.

Despite having a week off between games, the Wildcats played aggressive on both sides of the floor in the opening half. The Wildcats took a 33-25 lead into the halftime break.

The hot start gave the Wildcats a chance early, which hasn’t been a luxury that K-State has had all season long.

“It felt well,” DaJuan Gordon said, “To be able to keep a team down and not let them come back. We had some pressure on us because they came back, and we already had the lead. We were able to grind it out.”

The Wildcats shot 48 percent from the floor in the first half, led by nine points from DaJuan Gordon. The Cyclones shot 41 percent from the floor.

K-State opened the second half with a 37-25 lead, but Iowa State hung in the game. K-State did not hit a bucket other than from the free-throw line for seven minutes, which helped the Cyclones inch back into the game.

“We shot the ball pretty well in the first half,” Weber said. “Obviously, I was hoping that it would carry over into the second half, but it didn’t.”

Foul trouble hit the Wildcats early in the second half, which limited DaJuan Gordon and Bradford. The Cyclones hit the bonus with 13 minutes remaining in the ballgame.

The defense locked down in the final seven minutes as the Cyclones missed multiple desperation three-point shots.

“I think our defensive intensity had picked up,” Pack said. “We take pride in it now, and I feel like that is making us a different type of team.”

Iowa State went 4-of-10 from the floor and 2-of-7 from three in the final stretch of the game.

The Wildcats finished the season at ninth in the Big 12 and is the ninth seed in the Big 12 Championship Tournament in Kansas City and will face eighth-seeded TCU in the opening round on Wednesday.

K-State split the regular-season series with the Horned Frogs. K-State ended its 13-game losing streak with a 62-54 win in Fort Worth in late February. McGuirl led the Wildcats with 16 points en route to the win.