Men’s basketball loses nail-biter against Oklahoma in Big 12 Opener

Super-senior Mark Smith fired up during his big performance against Oklahoma on Saturday, Jan. 1. (Photo courtesy of K-State Athletics)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team (8-4, 0-1) fell 71-69 to Oklahoma (10-2, 1-0) on Saturday, Jan. 1, in the Wildcat’s Big 12 opener.

The Wildcats struggled to produce any offense in the first 20 minutes. After Oklahoma started the game on an 8-0 run, K-State head coach Bruce Weber was forced to call a timeout. It wasn’t until the 14:38 mark that the Wildcats hit a free throw.

“I just think in the beginning, we got off to a bad start,” super-senior Mark Smith said.

Just 40 minutes before tip-off, K-State announced its second-leading scorer, junior Markquis Nowell, was ruled out because of COVID-19 protocols.

“It’s been so difficult that we’ve had to keep changing,” Weber said, “from Nijel [Pack] being out, Davion [Bradford] being out, Mike [McGuirl] being out and now Markquis [Nowell] being out. I just hope to get some consistency.”

Outside of 11 points from Smith at the half, no one could turn it on in the first period, and the Wildcats went into halftime trailing 33-22.

The second half was a different story.

K-State more than doubled its first-half scoring, putting up 47 points in the second period, slowly creeping back at the lead. With a minute left to play, K-State completed the comeback, tying the game at 65-65.

Down four with seven seconds remaining, sophomore Nijel Pack shot a deep three-pointer but missed. Super-senior Mike McGuirl tipped in the rebound at the buzzer, but the Wildcats fell 71-69.

Smith had an all-time great performance for K-State, leading the team in points (25), rebounds (16) and assists (5) – all career-highs – with 0 turnovers.

“I’ve been having a lot of confidence lately,” Smith said. “Playing my game, letting it come to me … I feel confident shooting the ball … I really enjoy it.”

Smith’s 25 points and 16 rebounds made him the first Wildcat with a 20-point double-double since Dean Wade against Oral Roberts in 2018. Smith’s 16 rebounds are the highest in a conference game since Michael Beasley’s 17 against Missouri in 2008.

“I’m not sure I’ve had many players,” Weber said, “that have had a night like that. He appreciates being here — I can’t tell you how many times he tells us that.”

Also scoring in double-digits were Pack with 17 and sophomore Ish Massoud with 13. Pack brought the heat in the second half but was limited to only two points in the first, ending on 5-15 shooting.

“We need [Pack] to be better than 5-15, to be honest,” Weber said.

Starting for K-State was Smith, Pack, Massoud, sophomore Selton Miguel and junior Kaosi Ezeagu. Miguel finished with six points as he struggled with foul trouble — eventually fouling out — and Ezeagu recorded no points on just five minutes of play-time.

Off the bench, super-senior Mike McGuirl scored seven points, and sophomore Davion Bradford recorded one point.

The Sooners had five players in double-digits, with senior Elijah Harkless leading the way with 21 points. Senior Umoja Gibson with 19 points, senior Jordan Goldwire with 11, junior Jalen Hill with 10 and freshman C.J. Noland with 10.

K-State heads home to prepare for a matchup against 17th-ranked Texas on Tuesday, Jan. 4. The game will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, with a recap on the Collegian after the game.