Sometimes we talk about how games are closer than the score indicates.
Kansas State’s 82-79 loss to Oklahoma State felt like the opposite of that for most the game Saturday afternoon. Despite a horrifying amount of missed layups, subpar defense and a poorly timed off-night for Nijel Pack, the Wildcats managed to keep things close until the end.
Credit some solid 3-point shooting (13-32 for 40%), some clutch plays by Pack and an impressive rebounding effort led by Mark Smith. He grabbed 10 rebounds to go with 15 points for a double-double and KSU actually beat OSU 16-8 on the offensive glass, 38-37 overall.
Still, it’s really hard to win basketball games when you shoot 31.6% on 2-pointers. The opportunities were there, but it seemed like everyone failed to take advantage.
Pack and Nowell scored 16 points each, with Nowell hitting a 3 and dishing a perfect pass to Ezeagu to tie the game in regulation, and Pack making three free throws to tie in regulation. Did he deserve all 3 free throws? Meh.
Sadly, Oklahoma State hit a lot of tough shots as well, especially Bryce Thompson, who scored a career-high 23 points and hit 2 threes in OT. Avery Anderson scored 20 points and hit the dagger 3 with 3.5 seconds left.
This time Nowell really didn’t have a better choice than to take a 40-footer, and it clanged off the back of the rim to end K-State’s two-game win streak. That likely sent the Cats off the bubble, especially if they can’t pull off a minor miracle in Lawrence on Tuesday.
Both teams struggled to score early, with more than three minutes of zero points after Oklahoma State jumped out to an 8-3 lead. Nowell ended the drought with a three, setting the trend for a half of deep shots by Kansas State and points in the paint for Oklahoma State.
That’s typically a recipe for disaster, and things looked pretty grim when OSU opened up a 23-16. It had become painfully obvious Ismael Massoud couldn’t guard the Cowboys’ bigs without some help and K-State’s 3-point success seemed unsustainable.
Fortunately, the Cats found some offense from an unexpected source, as Luke Kasubke stole a pass and then converted a layup. Well, actually, it probably would have missed if an OSU player hadn’t touched the ball while it was still in the cylinder, but whatever works.
That sparked a 12-3 run capped off by threes from Pack and McGuirl to give K-State a rare lead. OSU answered with an 8-0 run and took a 37-35 lead into halftime despite an absolutely ridiculous stepback three from well behind the line by Nijel Pack.
Another unexpected boost after halftime came from Kaosi Ezeagu, who made his first appearance in three games to give K-State some much-needed size. He still didn’t rebound well and did some stupid things on both ends, but he also scored 9 points and made it a little tougher for OSU to score in the lane.
The Cowboys stretched out their lead once again as K-State basically dared them to pull away, but it never happened. More 3-pointers kept the Cats close and that story stayed the same in overtime, when McGuirl hit a pair of outside jumpers.
He finished with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Selton Miguel was once again MIA on the offensive end, and he wasn’t doing enough on defense to stay on the floor for more than 11 minutes.
Three in the Key
- No quit: It feels like we say this every game, but we have to point it out again today. You have to love the fight in this team, even when things aren’t going their way. Say what you want about Bruce Weber, he is clearly getting his guys to play extremely hard for him, and I really think they always believe they can win no matter the situation.
- A new 5? As mentioned above, Ezeagu provided some solid minutes and he just might have earned his starting job back, especially considering how bad the other guys playing at the 5 spot looked. Despite an encouraging early putback dunk, Bradford once again looked lost inside for much of his 22 minutes and he never scored again while scoring only one rebound. As for Massoud, it became very clear he couldn’t handle OSU’s bigs in the post, and he had trouble finding much offense aside from an early three. When he chose to brick a wide open 15-footer rather than take the open lane to the basket, it became painfully obvious he needed to go back to the bench.
- Defensive woes. Let’s be honest, this might have been Kansas State’s worst defensive game since Big 12 play started. Yes, OSU has some great athletes and made some very difficult shots. But they also got a bunch of easy ones inside when the Cats couldn’t stay in front of guards and then left big men wide open. Then there was the aforementioned issue of guarding guys in the post, which led to a need for double teams. Finally, why was K-State still leaving Bryce Thompson open in overtime?