The Kansas State Wildcats (9-7, 2-1 Big 12)...well, they pulled off what was statistically the most improbable feat of their season (yes, that includes going to Allen Fieldhouse and securing a victory), traveling to the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman and knocking off the (#16/#18) Oklahoma Sooners in overtime, 66-63.
K-State was a 14-point dog coming into the contest, and Kenpom.com had Oklahoma listed as a 94% favorite. We weren't supposed to win.
But that's why they play the games.
K-State came out with aggression, quality execution, and most of all - effort and heart - to begin the game. The Wildcat defense was solid early, and offensive ball movement was quick and pointed, and K-State jumped out to a 5-0 lead on the Sooners off a three by Marcus Foster and an inside bucket by Thomas Gipson. Exactly the start we needed. The Sooners weren't going to have any of that, though...engage Buddy Hield. The Cats continued executing offensively at a level we have not seen for quite some time - arguably since the Arizona game in Maui. But Buddy Hield - he's something else. He almost single-handedly kept OU in the game the entire first half as K-State continually tried to pull away. At the half, K-State was still able to outpace OU 31-30, based on a balanced attack across the board and decent defense against the Sooners. Gip had 6, Nino Williams had 6, Foster with 5, Wesley Iwundu had 4, Justin Edwards with 4, Stephen Hurt had 4, and Jevon Thomas with 2. Edwards contributed solid minutes once Foster picked up his second foul in the first half, and Hurt played very well in spelling Gip.
Buddy Hield had 20 at intermission.
Second half, thankfully, produced more of the same. The execution was a little more come-and-go on offense in the second half, and OU came out of the locker room and actually took their first lead of the game at 32-31 on an Isaiah Cousins layup, and stretched it to 34-31 on a Cousins jumper, capping off a 9-2 run that spanned the break. K-State came right back, and reeled off eleven straight, highlighted by a Justin Edwards three from the left corner and keyed by two Hurt jumpshots and two Hurt defensive boards, giving the Cats their largest lead of the game at 42-34 with 14:07 left.
Long way to go, but things were starting to look...possible.
Some back and forth, and OU suddenly puts together a 10-1 run of their own, with a mid-court steal and an uncontested runout dunk by Ryan Spangler as the puncutation mark, giving OU the lead again at 46-45. This series of events led to a possession that could have ultimately cost the Cats the game: poor execution and picking up dribble in the wrong places caused Bruce Weber to use two timeouts in the span of one possession. That left the Cats with one timeout the remaining 7-plus minutes. More back-and-forth with the candle starting to burn the wick awfully short, and K-State trailed the Sooners 55-51 with a minute to go. K-State corralled a missed three by OU, took it down the floor, and ran a great backdoor set with a dribble-drive by Justin Edwards, finding a baseline cut by Foster for the layup. 55-53; timeout K-State.
Nino with the foul on Spangler (a 73% FT shooter) for the one-and-one; a miss. K-State grabbed the board and brought it the other way, spent a few seconds, and put the ball in the hands of Marcus Foster.
Dribble-drive, a decently guarded 12-foot floater from the right side...bang. 55-all.
OU brought the ball down the court and got a guarded three off at the buzzer that bounced on the rim...bounced off the backboard...bounced on the rim...and fell out. Bonus Basketball.
Hield came out and knocked down the first bucket of overtime, a three from the left side of the court. Smooth as silk. After a crazy string of ball-bouncing-all-around, Gip comes up with the ball, settles down, and knocks down one of his bread-and-butter lefty jump hooks to bring the Cats back within one. OU's TaShawn Thomas knocked down one-of-two FTs, and on the next K-State possession, Foster makes an aggressive move to the hoop on the left baseline for a layup. Tied up at 59. Two straight OU turnovers, with a Hurt jumper and two FTs by Hurt, puts K-State up 4 with 1:38 left in the extra stanza. TaShawn knocks down a couple FTs from a drive to the bucket, 63-61 Cats.
K-State comes down and actually runs a bunch of time off the clock, with Foster taking a questionable three from the left wing that comes up short. Ball gets batted around, and Wes comes up with the offensive board. He doesn't realize the shot clock is about to buzz, so he kicks the ball back out to Foster instead of going right back up with it (he was relatively open at 8 feet out). Shot clock violation.
OU comes down the floor and Buddy Hield slices right through the middle of lane - basically uncontested - to tie the game at 63, 33 seconds left.
K-State inbound to Jevon Thomas, who works the ball to Foster straight away at 30 feet. K-State's playing for the last shot, playing for the win...
OU brought the ball down with 4.1 left on the clock, got a guarded but unlikely three off by TaShawn Thomas that fell long...
...and that's how you get a road upset of the #16 team in the country.
"Great team win!! Everyone did something great to get win the game!! #EMAW #KStateMBB" - Nino Williams, via Twitter
In the first half effort that built the foundation for the upset, the Cats had 12 assists on 15 made FGs, with Jevon Thomas leading the way with 5 in the first half.
Also represents the number of turnovers committed by K-State, under their season average of 14.4.
K-State outrebounded the Sooners - an excellent rebounding team all around - by 3, 40-37. The difference was on the offensive glass, where K-State came up with 14 offensive boards, the Sooners 11.
Oklahoma came into the game the 6th best team in the country in allowed effective field goal percentage (eFG%), at 40.5%. K-State posted an eFG% for the game of 50.0%, including an eFG% of 75.0% in overtime.
Only two players shot free throws for the Wildcats - Stephen Hurt went 3-6 from the line; Justin Edwards 0-2. The Sooners shot 19 free throws, connecting on 12.
K-State Player(s) Of The Game: Marcus Foster & Stephen Hurt
Editorial Note: I've come back in Sunday morning and revised the PotG section. Hurt was undeniably ballin' the whole game, Foster's heroics are the stuff you write entire articles about. I included Stephen Hurt as a co-PotG, because it's the right thing to do; and because I can. - TheBigE
Foster got the start again today, and actually only logged 21 minutes due to some foul trouble issues, and a brief sitting for forcing some ill-advised play in the middle of the second half. He finished with 14 points on 6-11 shooting (2-3 3PFG), 1 rebound, 1 assist. No points were bigger than the clutch buckets he made to end regulation and to send the Sooners to the locker room with the loss.
Stephen Hurt had himself a game - the best he's played all year. Contributing yeoman's work in 23 minutes, Hurt led the team in scoring with 15 (6-10, 0-1 3P, 3-6 FT), added 8 boards, and committed one turnover. I really liked the lineups we ran with Hurt and Gip on the floor at the same time, letting Gip work the block and having Hurt run the ultra-high-post at the top of the key. His touch really stretches the floor and opens up the paint for Gip. His ability to pinch the ball off the glass was key in keeping Ryan Spangler from being as much of a factor as he can be.
Other Player Notes
Justin Edwards filled in for Foster admirably, being just shy of a double-double with 9 points, 9 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, no turnovers. He played within himself and made very few mistakes.
Jevon Thomas played the point solid tonight, with 4 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and only 2 turnovers. Nigel spelled JT for only a couple minutes, and was largely a liability while he was on the floor.
Wesley Iwundu handled the ball a lot to help take some pressure off JT, and also contributed 6 points, 4 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal.
OU's Buddy Hield - he's a ball player. 31 points, 5 boards, 3 steals, and a blocked shot. A big reason why OU was even in the game. TaShawn Thomas put up a double-double, with 14 points, 11 boards. Ryan Spangler did what he does, with 9 points, 9 boards, 3 steals, and 4 blocks.
1. 3 Keys To The Game
1. Don't Let It Get Out Of Hand
K-State needs to come out with energy on both ends of the floor, and keep it a game through the first 30 minutes to give themselves a chance. If turnovers start getting linked together on our offensive end, and Oklahoma can capitalize on the other, this game can get out of hand quickly. We don't have the consistent firepower to come back from a 10+ point deficit to the Sooners.
2. Offensive Efficiency
Oklahoma excels at keeping opposing offenses from being efficient. But, aside from turnovers, we score pretty effectively (or, at least we have been across the season as a whole). We need to be patient but explicit with the ball on offense, and find good shots without forcing them up. Turnovers will be absolute doom tonight. Foster and Gip both need to have good nights, supplemented with another double-digit scorer in Nino, Wes, or Nigel. K-State can come out with a win if we get into the 60s. If it stays in the 50s, I don't think we are scoring efficiently enough to be on top. If the game gets quicker - 70s or 80s - we're probably getting blown out, given how our offense has been operating lately. I'd love to be wrong here, but we have the slimmest margin of error on offense of any game this season.
3. Protect the Paint
Good things happen for any team when they can get the ball into the paint under control. The Sooners thrive off of this. K-State has to strive to keep the Oklahoma guards out of the lane at all costs, and if the ball is passed into the bigs from the perimeter, weakside doubles with rotation to the opening will be critical to keep from the pass-in/kick-out three. Best case scenario is we force their guards to take guarded mid-range jump shots off the dribble, and when the ball does make it to the interior, they get one tough shot or a turnover, and we clean the glass.
Yep. Pretty much covered it.
2. Team Effort
Foster doesn't need to score 20+ for us to win. For us to win, everyone needs to contribute. That's been the biggest issue during the doldrums we've recently gone through - there wasn't enough team contribution. This is the best full-team contribution we've seen for
40 45 minutes, arguably all season. Everyone that played significant minutes played reasonably well, and acted like they trusted each other, and trusted what they were doing. Bruce also trimmed the rotation down to 7+2, which is exactly where it needs to be, barring injury or some other unforeseen circumstance.
3. Don't Lose Faith. The Team Hasn't.
This wasn't a shoot-the-moon performance. Nobody went off. Nobody had an other-worldly performance (well, outside of Hield, anyway). This is what we all expected at the beginning of the season.
Have they figured it out? Have they snapped out of it? Is it all coming together now?
Who knows. We know we can't chalk anything up in the future as a sure win. But this win effectively says we shouldn't just chalk anything up for the remainder of the season as a loss, either. The capability is there. The talent is there.
I was really worried about this game. Not because it was going to be a difficult game, but because I saw things against TCU that told me we were starting to turn the corner. It was starting to come together a bit. Not well, but it was improving. I was concerned that going to Norman and dropping a game where we weren't competitive would undo that progress.
What was potentially an unraveling game just became a building block of gigantic proportions.
And as Martha Stewart would famously say, "That's a good thing."
"Good team win. Have to keep the train going." - Wesley Iwundu, via Twitter
#EMAW returns to the MHK to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday, January 14, in Bramlage Coliseum. Let's get it turned up - make it the Octagon of Doom once again.