No. 12 Iowa State will host No. 5 Kansas State on Tuesday night in a marquee Big 12 matchup that sees both schools hoping to rebound from uneven showings against bottom-of-the-league foes.
The Cyclones (14-4, 5-2 Big 12) ceded the top spot in the conference standings after squandering a 16-point lead in Saturday’s 61-59 loss at Oklahoma State.
Facing a slog of their own against Texas Tech, the only winless team in the Big 12, the Wildcats persevered. Kansas State (17-2, 6-1) closed its Saturday game on a 31-13 run to win by 10 and take over the league lead from Iowa State.
“That’s what good teams do and championship teams do,” Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. “They rally when they’re down. A lot of credit goes to their older guys. They’ve got an old team. They’ve got some transfers and they have experienced guys. They know how important the last part of the game is and they execute.”
Markquis Nowell scored a game-high 23 points to pace three Wildcats in double figures. Keyontae Johnson (15 points) and Ismael Massoud (12) followed.
Slowed by defenses tailored to stunt his playmaking at the point guard position, Nowell had a combined 20 points as the Wildcats lost at then-No. 17 TCU before rebounding for an overtime win against then-No. 2 Kansas on Jan. 17.
The Texas Tech game marked a return to normalcy of sorts, as Nowell has scored no fewer than 20 points — and as many as 36 — in Kansas State’s other Big 12 games.
“That young fella likes to see the ball go in the hole, and that’s what gets him going,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “He was determined to have a good game today, shooting wise, and he did. We needed it.”
The Cyclones also could have used a big shot at Oklahoma State, but an uneven attack was unable to produce in crunch time. Iowa State went 39.7 percent from the floor, including a 2-for-9 effort from 3-point range.
“There were some unique plays over the last few minutes that (the Cowboys) were able to find a way to make one more than we did,” Cyclones coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
One encouraging sign for Iowa State was the continued surge of big man Osun Osunniyi, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. A transfer from St. Bonaventure, the 6-foot-10 Osunniyi has proven a quick study to the pace of Big 12 play.
“He’s giving us a lot,” the Cyclones’ Gabe Kalscheur said. “He’s been very disruptive and very active on the defensive end blocking shots, rotating, taking charges and being big on ball screens as well.
“Continuing to give us roll presence (in the pick-and-roll) on the offensive end, dunking everything, just giving us good post presence.”
Kalscheur added 14 points and Tre King 10 for the Cyclones. Minutes leader Caleb Grill played just 17 minutes, four in the second half, as he contended with a lower-back injury. Otzelberger said the team will “continue to evaluate” the situation.
Kansas State is set to host Iowa State on Feb. 18.
–Field Level Media