STILLWATER, Okla. — Wednesday night proved to be a throwback for Kansas State — in more ways than one.
Sporting lavender-and-purple retro uniforms for the second time this season, the Wildcats threw back three weeks with their on-court play, returning to form en route to a dominant 82-72 victory at Oklahoma State. Stout first-half defense and sharp second-half shooting made the Valentine’s Day tilt a breeze for K-State, which before Wednesday had lost three of its last four contests each by at least 14 points.
Barry Brown scored 25 points to pace a balanced attack for the Wildcats, who also got double-digit scoring efforts from Xavier Sneed (13), Dean Wade (12) and Kamau Stokes (11). The victory represented the first time K-State scored 70-plus points since Jan. 22.
“I like that we fought, I like that we guarded at the beginning, and then we made the plays and made the shots to extend the lead,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said in a postgame radio interview. “It was good basketball. Our guys, we shared the ball, we guarded the heck out of them, all the things we talked about, and we attacked.”
The Wildcats (18-8, 7-6 Big 12) did most of their heavy lifting in the first half.
K-State closed the period on a 19-4 run, powered by a suffocating defense that limited the Cowboys (15-11, 5-8) to 8-for-34 shooting before the break. OSU made only 2 of 12 attempts from beyond the arc and, despite 10 offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points, finished the half with just two assists versus seven turnovers.
“We was swarming, rebounding when we could and pushing the ball in transition,” Brown said of the team’s first-half effort.
Seven K-State players scored at least four points in the first half, and the team got 16 points from the bench, paced by a strong effort by 6-foot-8 freshman forward Levi Stockard (six points, five rebounds in the period). His layup gave K-State a 30-16 advantage and capped a 12-0 run midway through the frame.
“We’ve struggled bench-wise,” Weber said. “Obviously it helps to have Kam (Stokes) come off the bench and score 11 points ... but Levi and Ahmad (Wainright) were really good. They made big, big plays for us. You look at it, 24-15 outscored them in the bench (points), that’s a big difference.
“The bench really, really helped us, there’s no doubt about that. It was a key.”
The teams’ first halves were summarized in their final possessions, really. Stockard hit a midrange jumper to give the Wildcats their 37-20 halftime advantage, while the Cowboys’ Brandon Averette stumbled and tumbled at the buzzer trying to drive inside the arc on the other end. Boos trickled in from the lean crowd at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Wildcats didn’t let up after halftime. Wade drained a 3-pointer on K-State’s first possession, and while the Cowboys mustered a mild comeback to cut the deficit to 14, Sneed’s 3-pointer with 14:20 to play ballooned the advantage to 19, the Cats’ largest of the evening to that point.
It was smooth sailing from there for K-State, which entered as a 3½-point underdog.
The Wildcats made 5 of 10 attempts from 3-point range in the second half and shot 54.2 percent in the period overall, stretching the lead to 20 with nine minutes left. The Cowboys cut the final deficit to 10 in garbage time but didn’t get any closer at any point in the final period, which saw Brown score 20 of his game-high 25 points.
“You’ve got to make the right reads and the right passes and the right plays,” Weber said. “I felt we did that, especially in the first half. Through about 30 minutes, we were pretty good.”
K-State last wore the 1970s throwback uniforms in a Jan. 20 home victory over then-No. 24 TCU, a 73-68 outcome that represented the second in a four-game winning streak for the Wildcats. The team had dropped three of four since that run ended, however, before getting back on track Wednesday.
Brown said the decision to go with the throwbacks was made by Drew Speraw, the team’s director of operations, and that the players didn’t find out until just before the game.
“I guess the ‘Lucky Lavenders,’ that’s what people are calling ’em now,” Stokes said. “Hopefully we’ll wear ’em later on in the season.”
The Wildcats return to action at noon Saturday for a home contest against Iowa State at Bramlage Coliseum. K-State steamrolled the Cyclones for a 16-point road victory in the teams’ Big 12 opener on Dec. 29 in Ames. That contest was Stokes’ last in double figures before the outcome at Oklahoma State.
Still shaking rust away from a midseason foot injury, Stokes finished with three 3s, three assists and no turnovers in 25 minutes against the Cowboys.
“I’ve told Kam, ‘This is a process,’ ” Weber said. “You just can’t say, ‘I’m going to go play basketball in the Big 12, the best conference in the country,’ and be successful without working at it. I talked to him Saturday night after our game (against Texas Tech). I said, ‘You’ve got to push yourself.’ ”
Wednesday was a step in the right direction — for both Stokes and the Wildcats.
“It was great to see him out there again,” Brown said, “playing like his usual self.”