If you hadn’t written Kansas State off an hour before tip, you almost certainly did so when we learned the Cats would be without starting point guard Nijel Pack and his roommate, Seryee Lewis, for COVID-19 reasons.
So it came as a pleasant surprise when the Wildcats came out ready to compete and actually kept a lead for a little while against Oklahoma State. Predictably, with only eight players — two of whom were walk-ons — things eventually went south and got worse when OSU stopped missing shots, culminating in a 70-54 loss.
Senior Mike McGuirl hit a couple threes early on his way to a game-high 15 points to help Kansas State take a 10-6 lead. Oklahoma State started ice cold from outside and the Cats led by as much as five before the Cowboys moved in front with an 8-0 run.
KSU scratched back and even took the lead again on a layup from an unlikely source, 6-9 sophomore walk-on and Wichita native Joe Petrakis from Dodge City College. A couple minutes later, Avery Anderson III hit OSU’s first 3-pointer of the night, and his team never trailed again.
The Wildcats did exceptionally well defensively to hold Cade Cunningham, the Big 12’s leading scorer and likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, to a season-low 5 points on just 3 field goal attempts. However, all that attention on the 6-foot-8 superstar allowed others to find plenty of open shots, and they started hitting them after halftime.
OSU shot 75% in the second half, making its last 13 field goals to stretch out a lead that K-State cut to 39-35 on another McGuirl three with 14:20 remaining. DaJuan Gordon added 14 points and even grabbed 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Should we talk about how the 6-3 guard is the only player on this team averaging more than five rebounds per game? No, let’s leave that for another day.
Bruce Weber brought out a zone defense and it was somewhat effective when OSU couldn’t hit jump shots, although the Cowboys still managed to find their way into the lane quite often. They ended up with 42 points in the paint, due in no small part to the foul trouble that limited K-State’s starting center, Davion Bradford, to barely 12 minutes. Petrakis ended up with more minutes than both Bradford and Linguard.
Three in the Key
- It’s worth reviewing exactly how K-State ended up with a seven-man rotation and the bare minimum of players required to participate in a Big 12 basketball game. Pack was showing COVID-19 symptoms and that knocked out Lewis, a solid role player, due to contract tracing. Montavious Murphy, of course, is likely done for the season due to knee surgery. Kaosi Ezeagu, who began the season as the starting center, remains out with the knee injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 5. Antonio Gordon should come back from COVID-19 protocols soon. Luke Kasubke still hasn’t played yet and his return from a toe injury keeps getting pushed back. But other than that, everyone is fine!
- We should take a moment to praise Kansas State for another game with just 10 turnovers, although I’d truly accept at least another 5 turnovers if the Cats could at least make an effort to push the tempo or establish any sort of transition game. But anyway, it is encouraging to see 10 or fewer in two of the last three games from a team that averaged almost 15 turnovers per game against a pretty terrible nonconference schedule.
- The shooting was poor again, and I must regrettably inform you it had a lot to do with shot selection. Selton Miguel had a rough night. Pack’s absence clearly affected K-State’s ability to find open shots and ball movement wasn’t great, but mostly the Wildcats are just desperately lacking scorers right now. McGuirl and Gordon were at least able to create some shots and that’s why they were the only two guys to reach double figures, but it’s not as helpful when they combine to shoot 11 of 29 from the field. That’s only three fewer misses than Oklahoma State had as a team for the entire game.
Kansas State will be back at Bramlage on Wednesday try to stop its four-game conference losing skid against the only Big 12 team unable to beat the Wildcats so far, Iowa State.