Super-senior performances not enough on Senior Day, men’s basketball falls to Oklahoma

Sophomore Davion Bradford and fifth-year Mike McGuirl guard Oklahoma during a free throw attempt. K-State fell to Oklahoma 78-71 on March 5, 2022, at Bramlage Coliseum. (Madison Riebel | Collegian Media Group)

Despite high-scoring games from super-seniors Mark Smith (22 points) and Mike McGuirl (21 points), the Kansas State men’s basketball team (14-16, 6-12) couldn’t stop Oklahoma on the glass and from behind the arc. The Wildcats lost their regular-season finale 78-71 on Senior Day.

Oklahoma’s Umoja Gibson recorded 29 points for the Sooners, led by 5-6 three-point shooting in the first half. Gibson was 7-12 from behind the arc in the game.

K-State started the game with a small-ball line-up: Nijel Pack, McGuirl, Smith, Selton Miguel and Ish Massoud. Markquis Nowell sat out with a hamstring injury. While the smaller line-up led to a 37-point first-half, the Wildcats were dominated on the glass, 22-37.

The Sooners jumped to an early 8-point lead with a few Gibson three-balls. After a little more back-and-forth, Pack hit a three to cut the lead to five but picked up his second foul of the first half on the ensuing possession. This meant with 13 minutes to play in the half, Pack found himself on the bench.

Even with the Wildcat’s leading scorer on the bench, K-State found ways to score the basketball. Though having the small-ball line-up in, the Wildcats were able to drive to the hoop for layups. At the half, K-State only trailed by one: 37-38.

In the second half, the magic K-State used to stay in the game seemed to run out of juice. With 16 minutes to go, the Wildcats picked up their last lead of the game.

With nine minutes remaining, Nijel Pack got tangled up with an Oklahoma player. Pack had his hands up to show he wasn’t doing anything, as the Sooner had his arm wrapped around and pulled Pack down. Regardless, the referee called Pack for a foul, much to Pack’s dismay. Pack, with his fourth foul, had to substitute out, and head coach Bruce Weber picked up a warning from the official for causing a storm on the sideline.

“Somebody said we were the unluckiest team in the country, some national media guy, and it has been like that all year,” Weber said. “It’s just been like that all year. We’ve got good kids. They care. They want to win.”

Thirty seconds later, the Wildcats cut the lead to three points, and it would only get worse from there. Oklahoma’s Tanner Groves used his big body against K-State’s small-ball approach to rack up rebounds and points in the paint. Combine that with more threes from Gibson, and Oklahoma gained an 11-point lead with four minutes to go.

A little back-and-forth at the end brought the score down a little, with the final resting at 71-78 in favor of the Sooners.

“I guess we just don’t do the little things that make a difference,” Weber said.

Despite only playing 23 minutes with foul trouble, Pack still managed ten points to go along with Smith’s 22 and McGuirl’s 21. Massoud added 11 points, and Miguel provided two, Davion Bradford three and Luke Kasubke two.

Gibson lead the way for Oklahoma with his 29 points, and Groves added 14 points for the Sooners.

The loss locks K-State into the eight-seed for the Big 12 tournament, meaning the Wildcats will play nine-seed West Virginia in Kansas City on Wednesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will go on to play the first seed.