No. 14 Kansas State appears to be back on track after experiencing an untimely swoon.
Fresh off wins over Iowa State and Baylor, the Wildcats will aim for their third straight victory when they visit Oklahoma State on Saturday in Big 12 play in Stillwater, Okla.
Kansas State (21-7, 9-6 Big 12) is tied for third place with Baylor after beating the No. 9 Bears 75-65 on Tuesday. The Wildcats hold the tiebreaker edge due to sweeping the regular-season series.
The consecutive victories follow a stretch in which Kansas State dropped five of seven games. Now the Wildcats can feel the momentum as they venture on the road to face the Cowboys (16-12, 7-8).
“It gives you confidence going into a road hostile environment,” standout Kansas State point guard Markquis Nowell said after beating Baylor. “We needed this, we earned this. We put in the work, when things were going bad, we adjusted, and we looked over our mistakes. It’s good to be back on the winning side.”
Nowell had 14 points and 10 assists without a turnover and Keyontae Johnson added 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
Johnson leads Kansas State in scoring (17.6) and rebounding (7.2) while Nowell averages 16.8 points and a team-best 7.6 assists. Nowell (212) is the first player in Wildcats’ history to have at least 200 assists in a season.
Nowell scored 20 points when Kansas State registered a 65-57 home victory over Oklahoma State on Jan. 10.
But Wildcats coach Jerome Tang expects a fierce battle in the rematch.
“We’re gonna go down to Oklahoma State and give them our very best, but they’re another team that they’re just really, really good,” Tang said. “And so we’re gonna see but there’s only been once or twice this year where I didn’t think that we were, like, locked in.”
Oklahoma State has dropped three straight games by an average of 18 points right after winning five in a row.
The Cowboys lost 87-76 to then-No. 5 Kansas on Feb. 14 and were walloped 100-75 by then-No. 22 TCU last Saturday before being shellacked 85-67 by host West Virginia on Monday.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton says the indefinite loss of guard Avery Anderson III (wrist) three-plus weeks ago has hurt. The Cowboys also had a three-game stretch in January without big man Moussa Cisse that has affected the team’s chemistry in the eyes of the coach.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Boynton said after the loss to the Mountaineers. “We were without Cisse for about three weeks. We get him back comfortable and Anderson goes out. We’re not here to make excuses. You have to play the hand your dealt.
“Injuries are part of the game, it affects everybody a little bit differently. It certainly has had an impact. Our job is to figure out how to play well with the situation we have because at the end of the day, no one really cares. You have to find a way to get the job done.”
Caleb Asberry scored 15 points and Bryce Thompson added 14 against West Virginia.
Kalib Boone, who is tied with Thompson for a team-best 11.8 points, scored 23 points in last month’s loss to Kansas State. Cisse, who collects a team-best 8.1 rebounds per game, missed the first meeting.
–Field Level Media