When Wesley Iwundu lobbed an alley-oop toward D.J. Johnson late Wednesday night in Stillwater, Okla., it seemed to be returning.
K-State has had a knack for letting close games slip this season — three of its four losses this season have come by one or two points — and when Iwundu’s lob smacked off the rim and led to a Cowboy fast break and 3-pointer on the other end, K-State’s lead was down to 90-84 with 56 seconds left.
Those late-game tendencies seemed to be on the rise yet again.
But this time, the Wildcats hung on — this time for a 96-88 win over the Cowboys, just K-State’s second road win over Oklahoma State since 1993.
The Wildcats (14-4, 3-3 Big 12) needed the win badly. They remain without a signature win well into January, and while a road win over Oklahoma State (10-8, 0-6) is far from a marquee win, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for coach Bruce Weber’s club.
Barry Brown led K-State with a career-high 22 points, including a 3-pointer hoisted well beyond the arc to push the Wildcats’ lead to 90-79 with 1:39 left.
From there, Oklahoma State guard Jeffrey Carroll — on his way to 24 points — connected on a pair of free throws before hitting the triple following Iwundu’s errant lob.
Iwundu then knocked down two of his own free throws, though, and K-State guard Xavier Sneed threw down a pair of dunks for the exclamation mark on the win.
The Wildcats last won in Gallagher-Iba Arena in January 2012, but before that, the history books trace back to 1993 when K-State last upended the Cowboys on the road.
K-State has oft been the victim of ugly, defensive affairs in Stillwater in years past, most recently dropping a 58-55 overtime decision a season ago.
This year was different. This year, Oklahoma State led K-State 54-51 — at halftime.
It was the result of a red-hot shooting effort from both sides, coupled with a less-than-inspiring defensive outing. Both squads shot 50 percent or better in the first half, and the Cowboys canned 9 3-balls in the first stanza alone — good for a scorching 64 percent mark from distance.
The Wildcats made up for the 3-point disparity by pounding it inside. Johnson posted 10 of his 18 points in the first half.
K-State stretched its lead to as wide as 24-20 in the first half, but the Cowboys responded with an 8-0 run on the backs of Phil Forte and Jawun Evans alone, the latter of whom tallied 20 points.
Carroll later splashed a trey to balloon Oklahoma State’s lead to seven, but Isaiah Maurice hit a jumper, and Sneed followed with a 3 to trim his team’s deficit back to just one.
The basket-swapping continued from there, all while defense seemed of little concern to both squads.
The Cowboys entered intermission with a 54-51 edge.
It took K-State some time to snatch the lead when the second half began, but once the Wildcats did, they relinquished it just once, before Brown hit a 3-pointer to secure K-State’s lead for good.
The lead then was 62-61, and though Forte minutes later tied it at 66 with a 3-pointer, the Wildcats again responded. This time it was by way of a 6-0 spurt.
Nearly the same scenario occurred later with 2:55 to play. Cowboy forward Mitchell Solomon hit a layup, and Oklahoma State trailed by just five — but K-State slammed the door shut with another 6-0 run.
It was K-State’s game to win at that point, and the Wildcats did so.
Iwundu logged 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a performance emblematic of the 6-7 senior’s versatility. Kamau Stokes added 12 points.
The Cowboys cooled down considerably in the second half, shooting just 40 percent in the period. But Forte canned three 3s as part of his 12-point outing, Leyton Hammonds chipped in 11 points and Solomon finished with 10.
It’s a sigh of relief for K-State, but the Wildcats can’t bathe in splendor for long — not in the Big 12. Up next is a home matchup with No. 7 West Virginia.
For now, though, they will enjoy the spoils of a road victory. After all, those are few and far between in this conference.