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K-State Swept Away by Cyclones, 78-67

The Wildcats fought back in a tough environment but ultimately fell short.

Background: Jan 24, 2024; Ames, Iowa, USA; Kansas State Wildcats forward Arthur Kaluma (24) splits the defense from Iowa State Cyclones guard Keshon Gilbert (10) and Iowa State Cyclones forward Hason Ward (24) at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland
Hard to believe that in a game featuring 62 free throws, we have pictures of none of them. Here’s Arthur Kaluma trying to score on a reverse.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

K-State fell behind by as many as 14 points, fought back to tie the score five times, but ultimately succumbed to Iowa State by a 78-67 score Wednesday night in Ames.

The Wildcats (14-5, 4-2 Big 12) got off to a horrific start, as they committed three turnovers before taking a single shot. Cam Carter fouled to prevent a lay-up after the first turnover, then was whistled for an offensive foul 17 seconds later and went to the bench barely half a minute into the game. He would sit there for most of the first half.

Iowa State (15-4, 4-2) built a 28-16 lead and threatened to blow the game open before halftime. But some timely contributions from unexpected sources help the Cats weather the storm. Dorian Finister got a steal and lay-up, Dai Dai Ames hit a floater in the lane, and Jerrell Colbert made a layup and a dunk on assists from Ames and Arthur Kaluma to make it 37-28 with 4:12 to go in the first half.

But K-State made only a lone free throw the rest of the way to the break and trailed 41-29 going into the locker room.

Coming out of the locker room, the Wildcats were a different team. After ISU freshman Milan Momcilovic made one of his old-man rec league fall-away set shots (charitably credited as a “jumper” in the ESPN stats sheet) to stake the Cyclones to their biggest lead of the game, 43-29, the Cats went to work.

Tylor Perry assisted David N’Guessan for a layup and a bonus free throw, which he made. Kaluma drained a three-pointer. Will McNair Jr. Blocked a driving try by Tamin Lipsey, and Cam Carter nailed a three. After an exchange of free throw attempts, Perry hit threes on back-to-back possessions, pulling the Cats within two, 47-45.

A Cam Carter dunk knotted the game at 47-all, completing an 18-4 run, and it looked as if K-State had weathered the Hilton storm and had a chance to steal a road win. Over the next several minutes the game was tied at 53, 54, and 57, the last of these ties coming at the 9:12 mark on a Carter jumper. But K-State failed to score for nearly three minutes, and Iowa State opened a 61-57 edge.

Two Colbert free throws and a David N’Guessan layup tied it again at 61 apiece. But K-State could never pull in front. The Cats were empty on three straight possessions, and Jerome Tang was assessed a technical foul with two minutes to play after an absolutely terrible foul call bailed out Momcilovic, who lost his feet on a drive near the free throw line and fell down in front of N’Guessan. Momcilovic made 3 of 4 free throws, then knocked down a three-pointer to put the ‘Clones up 72-62 with 1:31 left and all but end the game.

Turnovers were a problem, as we expected them to be. But the margin was acceptable, as the Wildcats failed to get up a shot on 17 possessions to Iowa State’s 15, and turnovers did not dictate the game’s outcome.

The two stats that really decided the game were rebounds and free throws. The Cats did not match the home team’s intensity for parts of the game and got outworked on the glass 38-25. The regression in the rebounding department over the past few weeks is disappointing, because it seemed until recently that Coach Tang and his staff had addressed the most glaring weakness from last year’s squad. They need to correct it again.

One particularly back-breaking sequence saw Iowa State’s Keshon Gilbert miss a jumper, outhustle a pair of Cats for the rebound, and toss it out front for a wide-open three-pointer by Curtis Jones. That shot pushed Iowa State’s two-point lead to five, 66-61. With the technical foul shenanigans that followed on the next trip down the floor, what had been a one-possession game quickly ballooned to a 72-62 deficit.

The free throw disparity was an even bigger factor. K-State actually shot a better field goal percentage overall (22-49, 45% to ISU’s 22-51, 43%) and made one more three (8-24) than Iowa State (7-21). But Iowa State was awarded 39 free throws to K-State’s 23. Neither team shot them particularly well, but Iowa State’s 27-15 advantage in points earned at the stripe covered the winning margin, plus one.

Arthur Kaluma led K-State with 16 points. Carter was the only other double-figure scorer, with 12. He played only 20 minutes and took only 7 shots. Nine players scored for the Cats. Dorian Finister led the rebounding effort with 6. Good for him. But the big guys should run some bleachers. Kaluma and N’Guessan grabbed only 2 rebounds apiece, and McNair had only 1.

We tease about Momcilovic’s style, but he was effective, leading his team with 19 points.

Special Awards

  1. The “Noticed for the Wrong Reasons” award to the Orville Redenbacher clone behind the K-State bench, who despite being Medicare-eligible and presumably mature enough not to embarrass himself, did exactly that by gesticulating at Jerome Tang like an immature middle schooler after the technical foul. So much anger, dude. It’s impossible to hate Tang.
  2. The “MVP of the Staff” award to Iowa State’s massage therapist, who will be up into the wee hours of dawn rubbing out the neck sprains of numerous Clones who over-emphatically tossed back their heads on multiple occasions to (quite effectively, it turns out) convince the referees to call fouls.
  3. The “Make sure they know my name” award to referee Gerry Pollard, who makes certain to call attention to himself on such a regular basis that we even know he spells his name with a “G.”

Sorry, Fam. Late start losses make for bad moods.

Next Up

Nothing gets easier from here, as the Wildcats will gear up for a road game at No. 4 Houston on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. The Cougars are 17-2. Like Iowa State, they are undefeated at home thus far. ESPN analytics predicts a Houston win by a 96.8 - 3.2% probability.

So...you’re telling me there’s a chance.