Editor’s note: This article originally used an archive photo from the Oklahoma State game on Jan. 10. It has since been updated with a photo from the Texas Tech game. The original archive photo used has been inserted at the bottom of the article.
In a defensive slugfest, the No. 13 Kansas State Wildcats defeated Texas Tech 68-58 as head coach Jerome Tang stays undefeated at home. Additionally, Saturday losses by both Iowa State and Kansas puts K-State in sole possession of first place in the Big 12.
The Red Raiders displayed their physicality early, with Tech out-rebounding the Wildcats during an 8-0 run to grab the lead. Tang and his staff adjusted during a timeout, hoping to regain momentum.
“I knew we had that kind of resolve,” Tang said. “I told them, ‘Hey, we’re going to score, right, and then it’s going to be a six possession game. That’s a two possession game and a lot of time on the clock’ and they said ‘okay’ and they went out and they executed.”
Guard Markquis Nowell, coming off a quiet scoring game against Kansas, got back on track as well. Nowell recorded the game’s first bucket with a 3 and ended the Red Raider run with another. Shortly after, Nowell displayed his playmaking ability with yet another SportsCenter Top-10-worthy dish in a no-look pass to center Abayomi Iyiola for a quick layup.
“I just try to come out and be aggressive … just play my game,” Nowell said. “And when I did that, you know, shots was falling.”
From then on, the game became a defensive battle. After zero conference playtime due to injuries, center David N’Guessan returned to the floor. His brief minutes facilitated the Wildcat efforts to match the Red Raider size advantage.
“It was big,” Johnson said about N’Guessan returning. “He’s been working off the court and practice and finally seeing him out there with us, it was real big to get his confidence back.
However, Texas Tech still gave the Wildcats woes offensively. K-State finished the first half on a four-minute field goal drought. The Red Raiders refused to let K-State have success in the paint, making the Wildcats shoot 17 of their 26 shots from beyond the arc.
Tech finished the half making four of their last five shots, including a half-court buzzer beater to give them a 33-28 lead.
Nowell finished the first half with 12 points and was the sole Wildcat with over four at the break. K-State’s leading scorer, forward Keyontae Johnson, failed to record a bucket. Any comeback for K-State would rely on Johnson to find a groove.
“We needed him [Johnson],” Tang said. “We told him, ‘Hey you need to be more aggressive’ … because him taking a tough shot is sometimes better than somebody taking an open shot.”
K-State was able to tie the game early but suffered another scoring drought that Texas Tech took advantage of, taking an eight-point lead. Forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin also recorded his fourth foul early in the half. This forced K-State to use an even smaller lineup.
Just as Tech looked to be controlling the game, Johnson and forward Ismael Massoud led K-State on a 9-0 run and took a three-point lead. K-State, with help from a sellout crowd, grabbed the momentum back.
That would be the final momentum switch of the game as K-State controlled the closing minutes and grew their lead to double-digits.
Nowell tallied 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Johnson led the rebounding with 11 and finished with 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Massoud quietly had an impressive game, shooting 5-6 and recording 12 points.
K-State will hit the road to Ames, Iowa, to take on No. 12 Iowa State on Tuesday, January 21, at 8 p.m.