K-State overcame a 10-point deficit midway through the second half, then staged a 16-6 finishing kick to overcome Oklahoma State by a 70-66 score Saturday evening in Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats played just well enough, for just long enough, to win the game.
A three-point bucket by Oklahoma State’s Javon Small gave the Cowboys a 54-44 lead with 10:13 to play. K-State whittled the deficit to 4, only to see Connor Dow drain another three to push the ‘Poke advantage to 59-52 with 7:30 remaining. But Oklahoma State did not connect on another field goal until Small knotted the score at 66-all with less than a minute remaining.
A pivotal moment occurred after the Small bucket. K-State’s Tylor Perry drove down the lane, losing his footing and falling on his back. The ball went out of bounds off Oklahoma State, giving the Cats a baseline inbound play with 1.2 seconds on the shot clock. Off a perfectly executed set, Perry lobbed the ball to Cam Carter, who banked home the deuce from the front of the rim with the shot clock expiring to give K-State a 68-66 lead.
On its ensuring possession, Oklahoma State channeled the sloppiness that marked the game for both teams. Quion Williams lost his balance near the right elbow and threw a pass toward a vacant spot in front of his team’s bench, for his team’s 17th turnover. Carter was fouled after the subsequent inbound pass and knocked down both free throws for the 70-66 final score.
Although we have not mentioned his name yet, the clear player of the game for K-State was Arthur Kaluma. He poured in a game-high 23 points on 7-12 shooting and was, for stretches of the game, the only offense the Wildcats had going. He connected on 7 of 12 attempts from the floor, including 3 of 5 from beyond the three-point arc. On a day that saw the Cats outrebounded 31-25 on their home floor, King Art led the squad with 7. He had 4 assists, two blocks, and 3 steals to fill out the stat sheet, but was guilty of 5 turnovers, as well.
Cam Carter scored 15 on 5-9 shooting, and McNair finished with an efficient 5-6 shooting night, giving him 10 points.
Tylor Perry continued his season-long trend of starting slowly and finishing stronger late. He had no points at halftime and sat out a significant portion of the second half. But he came back in midway through the period and finished with 9 points and a team-high 5 assists. He only attempted 6 shots, making 2. But he scored 8 straight K-State points during a pivotal stretch just after Oklahoma State took its largest lead, helping to keep the Cats within striking distance.
K-State shot 25-48 (52%) for the game, including 8-22 (36.4%) from deep. The Wildcats made 12 of 16 free throws (75%). Despite decent shooting, the outcome was in doubt until the end, largely because of turnovers and rebounding. Each team committed 17 turnovers, and it seems that most of K-State’s infractions were of the “here, take it” variety. The rebounding margin also led to five more shots for the Cowboys, who made 21 of 53 (41.5%), including 9 of 27 (33%) from deep.
Three Oklahoma State players reached double-figures, led by Eric Dailey Jr. who came off the bench to score 15.
With the win, K-State (14-4, 4-1 Big 12) retains a tie atop the Big 12 standings with Texas Tech who also had to make winning plays late Saturday to beat BYU. Oklahoma State (8-10, 0-5), despite challenging K-State the whole way and controlling the game for several stretches, remains winless in conference play and alone in last place. Every other Big 12 team has at least two victories.
The Big 12’s top-to-bottom balance was on full display Saturday, as No. 3 Kansas lost on the road to a West Virginia team that was previously 6-11, and 6 of the 7 conference games were decided by margins of seven or less. This game felt like the kind K-State could not lose if it entertains hopes of making the NCAA field. They held serve, if barely.
Time will tell whether the Cats can clean up the correctable errors that are making games so tense in the end, or whether they will keep dancing on the edge of disaster. Fortunately, against a young Oklahoma State squad, the Wildcats were able to do enough to survive. With six ranked opponents waiting in the wings over the next seven games, it is unlikely they will have the margin to live so dangerously.
K-State plays No. 24 Iowa State in Ames Wednesday at 8:00 on ESPN2.