Despite shooting above average from three and from the free throw line, the Kansas State Wildcats got absolutely smoked out of the gym in the first four minutes and spend the next 36 playing catchup. While K-State battled back valiantly, the Cats dropped their third-straight conference game to the Oklahoma Sooners, 86-76.
Any thoughts of a hangover from the Sooner's 3OT loss to Kansas on Monday were quickly squashed from the opening tip, as Oklahoma ran out to a 12-2 lead by the under-16 timeout on seven quick points by Buddy Hield, a putback dunk by Khadeem Lattin, and another three from Jordan Woodard. They would continue their barrage, stifling most K-State attacks at the rim or by creating turnovers, and pouring in shots from everywhere like they were uncontested layups against a porous Wildcat defense. By the under-12 timeout, the margin was 25-8; entirely too much cushion to give one of the best teams in the country.
Oklahoma would eventually stretch the first-half gap to 21 points at the 4:03 mark, but the Cats righted the ship late in the half and rallied back. With Buddy Hield on the bench with two fouls, and some misses (finally) on the part of the Sooners, K-State was able to get a unit of Justin Edwards, Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Stephen Hurt and DJ Johnson rolling a bit. Threes by the Big Fella, Microwave and Edwards, along with an emphatic dunk by DJ, were strung together to finish out the half on a 12-0 run and cut the lead to 9 at the break, 44-35.
Using a different second half lineup for the first time this year, K-State came back out with the five that finished the half. Oklahoma actually broke the scoring open on the second half due to a Bruce Weber technical, assessed for arguing with the officials; his first of the season. After that point, the Wildcats and Sooners threw punches back and forth, but Oklahoma had too much firepower. A fading three from Hield in the corner put Oklahoma up by 18 again with 12:09 remaining, but the Cats would strike back on the shoulders of Dean Wade and Barry Brown. Wade scored six straight, punctuated by a baseline drive and one-handed throwdown, and Brown hit a layup and a long three to help put together a 15-5 run, cutting the lead to 8 with 8:07 to go.
Another Oklahoma onslaught of Hield, Lattin and Woodard put the Sooners up by 16 again 1:19 to go, the final nail in the coffin. But again, K-State tried to throw haymakers right back, even up to the final whistle. A Stokes three, followed by a Carlbe Ervin II three, and an and-one conversion by Barry Brown helped the Cats cut the margin back to 8. With only 29 seconds left on the clock, a couple of late free throws by Isaiah Cousins sealed the deal for the final 10 point margin.
K-State forced 20 turnovers from the Sooners, and finished the game with a +9 turnover margin. Against many opponents, that alone would probably tilt the game in our favor.
K-State put up 73 shots, the most attempts (by a wide margin) this season. The Cats connected on 28, for a 38.4% average, below the season average of 42.2%.
The Wildcat bench put up 36 points, outscoring Oklahoma's reserves by 30. This was a big reason K-State was able to battle back during periods in the game.
Player Of The Game: Barry Brown
The Microwave came in off the bench and did Barry Brown things all night, playing 30 minutes in the contest. Being key to several different K-State runs, Microwave was not bashful on either end of the floor. He'd finish with a team-high 19 points (8-16 FG, 2-6 3P, 1-2 FT), 8 rebounds, and 2 steals. This marks the third straight game, and fifth time this season, Barry has led the team in scoring.
Tigger Of The Game: Dean Wade
Note: Since HC Bruce Weber noted there are "a lot of Tiggers on this team," we're going to find that player that had an high-flying offensive play, stonewall defensive play, or a notable performance, and call them out here.
Dean's isolated baseline drive and poster one-hander gets the nod for Tigger play. Wade finished with 12 points (4-12 FG, 0-5 3P, 4-4 FT) and 4 boards. He needs to find that outside shot again soon; since the game against North Carolina, Dean has gone a combined 2-24 from beyond the arc.
Other Notable Performances
Stephen Hurt plugged in when the team really had nothing going, stepping out and hitting a couple of big threes. The Big Fella finished with 11 points (4-12 FG, 3-7 3P) and 6 boards.
Justin Edwards was able to contribute all over the floor while his shot wasn't falling. Only coming up with 5 points (1-7 FG, 1-3 3P, 2-4 FT), he added 5 points, 4 assists and 5 steals.
DJ Johnson provided a huge spark on the interior from the bench. He hit double figures for the second time this season with 10 (4-5 FG, 2-4 FT), snagged 4 boards, and showed some premise of rim protection with 2 blocks. His 64.3% from the floor on the season is #78 in the country.
Wesley Iwundu was quiet save for a couple of instances. Tallying 7 points, he did manage to go 3-3 from the line (but 2-8 from the floor), and picked up 4 rebounds. Wes had one of his worse performances on defense this year, leading to only 18 minutes of court time.
Kam Stokes had a rough go of it from the floor, going 2-8 from the floor (1-3 3P) for 5 points, but added 3 assists and 3 steals.
National Player of the Year front-runner Buddy Hield amassed 31 points on a ridiculous 11-14 from the floor, 6-8 from three, and 4-4 from the line. He also picked up 8 boards, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, but showed his one weakness in committing 6 turnovers (no one from K-State had more than two). Jordan Woodard added 19 points, Ryan Spangler did Spangler things with 14 points and 7 boards, and Khadeem Lattin finished with a double-double.
1. No quit.
We played Charmin soft the first 10 minutes. Frankly, it was embarrassing. Because of that, this team was dead man walking by the under-12 timeout in the first half, being down 21 to one of the best teams in the country. Don't tell the team that, though. On the shoulders of essentially a bunch of freshmen and transfers, the Cats threw some heavyweight punches of their own to cut the lead back to single digits several times, including late in the game. Now, if they could just come out and play with that intensity from the tip...
2. Outside shooting is flat out the reason we aren't winning games right now.
Systematically, our offense just doesn't work. It's allowing players to settle for marginal shots, instead of working to find good ones.
We're shooting way too many threes for how bad we are at it. What to do? You can't just say, "you need to make more shots," and expect to magically happen. These guys can hit open threes - but we're taking a lot of suspect ones. Shots that are great ideas if they go in, but when they don't, they're crippling on efficiency.
2. Need a win soon.
You've got to think that starting the conference slate by losing three straight is a tough pill to swallow. Do these guys get angry? Do they sulk? Do they even have a conscience? We'll find out soon, but being in last place in the Big 12 standings (its early), a win would probably do wonders for the psyche of this group.
#EMAW returns home to the Octagon of Doom, to hopefully earn their first conference win against Texas Tech, on Tuesday, January 12 (700p CST).