Comeback Cats: Overtime play saves the day in close game against Iowa State

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Juinor guard Markquis Nowell. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State men’s basketball (13-11, 5-7) had to use overtime in route to a big comeback win over Iowa State on Saturday, Feb. 12.

The game looked grim from the beginning. A three-pointer by Iowa State’s Aljaz Kunc sparked a 13-0 start to the game for the Cyclones, highlighted by 11 points from Kunc. Kunc came into the match-up averaging 5.6 points per game, and more than doubled that in just three minutes.

“They came out and they had the juice from the beginning,” head coach Bruce Weber said to K-State Athletics. “They jumped us 10 to zip. Obviously (Aljaz) Kunc hit some big shots.”

K-State finally found the bottom of the net three-and-a-half minutes into the game, but the comeback wasn’t on yet. The Cyclones kept the Wildcats at bay through the remainder of the first half, jumping to its biggest lead (15 points) with 18:59 to go in the second half.

The Wildcats slowly crept back up through the second half, defined by a 10-0 run, starting at the 8:40 mark when down 50-58. With 4:09 left to play, K-State found its first lead of the ball game at 60-58.

“We settled down and we cut it several times in the first half where we got to five, seven, whatever, but they just kept coming at us,” Weber said to K-State Athletics.

The game went back-and-forth for the final four minutes, but the Wildcats found the ball in their hands with the game tied at 63 with two timeouts and 19 seconds to play.

“Then the second half, I thought we did a pretty good job of playing pretty well, but they have a shot that goes straight up, hits the backboard, drops in for three,” Weber said to K-State Athletics. “But at the end, the plays went our way and our guys made plays and made shots.”

K-State decided to play out the clock, with junior guard Markquis Nowell getting blocked after hoisting up a long three before time expired.

The first couple of minutes of overtime were scary, but K-State came back again and redeemed itself for a poor shot at the end of regulation. A layup by super-senior Mike McGuirl and a three from Nowell put the Wildcats up five with a minute to play.

“Their defensive strategy, they force things to the baseline, so the corners will be open if you take a dribble to the baseline. Mark [Smith] just whipped it to me. It hit the net and everything,” Nowell said to K-State Athletics. “I didn’t even think it was gonna get to me when it got to me — I just shot it with confidence. I made sure that I did my whole routine when I’m shooting. Luckily it went in.”

Sophomore guard Nijel Pack had another big game, scoring 19 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting and 4-5 from three. Nowell finished with 16 points, super-senior Mark Smith had 15 points and nine rebounds and sophomore Ish Massoud contributed 11 points.

The win against Iowa State keeps the Wildcats in the running for a top-seven seed in the Big 12 tournament as they move two games ahead of last place.

“So you just gotta keep getting ready,” Weber said to K-State Athletics. “The team that has that determination, that excitement, it’s important. We’re gonna need everybody. We win when everybody plays well.”

K-State is back at home at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14, against West Virginia in another contest huge for seeding purposes, streaming on ESPN2.

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