The No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats were defeated by the No. 12 Iowa State Cyclones in Ames, Iowa, 80-76. The two teams are now tied for first place in the Big 12 with the Texas Longhorns.
K-State got on top early largely thanks to guards Cam Carter and Markquis Nowell. Carter, who averages 6.4 points per game this season, scored nine points in the first five minutes. Nowell assisted two of Carter’s buckets and drained a 3-pointer of his own.
The Wildcat offense started to struggle shortly after as the Cyclone’s defense settled in. Entering the game, the Cyclones allowed a Big 12 low of 58.6 points per game.
K-State’s defense held their own, lending to the team’s 33-31 halftime lead. Carter entered the break still leading all scorers with 13 points, although he would only record 15 points after being called for his fourth foul early in the second half.
The opening minutes of the second half saw continued tight play until Iowa State’s defense became an issue for the Wildcats. K-State went on a field goal drought for over five minutes and struggled to make free throws as well.
Going into the game’s final 10 minutes, K-State faced their largest deficit of 10.
Iowa State began to pull away with constant scoring by guards Jaren Holmes and Gabe Kalscheur. The duo combined for over half of the Cyclone point total with 41 points.
However, K-State didn’t go down without a fight. A 6-7 Wildcat field goal run cut the deficit to two points with four minutes to play. Forward Ismael Massoud and Nowell held two of the biggest shots in that stretch, each sinking a 3-pointer.
The Cyclones continued to lead, but another clutch 3-pointer by Nowell kept the Wildcats within two with two minutes left. Under that mark, K-State couldn’t quite come up with the stop they needed and Iowa State’s defense was able to hold.
Nowell recorded 23 points and 9 assists on the night, and forward Keyontae Johnson grabbed a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Outside of Johnson, rebounding proved to be difficult for the Wildcats as their three tallest players in Massoud, forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin and center Abayomi Iyiola combined for zero rebounds.
Despite adding one to the loss column, the night had positives for the Wildcats. K-State became the only Big 12 team and second team all season to score over 70 points against Iowa State’s defense.
The Wildcats will take a break from conference play against Florida in the last SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The game will take place at Bramlage Coliseum at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31.