By Kellis Robinett
Tribune News Service
Marcus Foster beat Oklahoma again.
The sophomore Kansas State guard nailed a game-winning three in the final seconds of a 59-56 victory over No. 17 Oklahoma on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum, lifting the Wildcats to their first victory in three weeks and an unexpected sweep of the Sooners. They had lost five in a row.
The clutch shot brought back memories of his late-game heroics during a win at Oklahoma last month in which he sent the game to overtime with a runner and won the game with a deep three.
"It's ironic. It was the exact same shot," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "To beat them twice, it's pretty amazing for him to do that. I thought it was an even cleaner look than last time."
Foster did not speak with media afterward. Weber said Foster, who along with reserve Malek Harris missed the past three games with suspensions for violating unspecified team rules, will not conduct another interview this season.
"Maybe next year," Weber said. "He needs to focus on what he needs to focus on."
It was the type of play K-State (13-13, 6-7 Big 12) has sorely missed recently without Foster. Though the Wildcats had not been winning, they were staying competitive. Clutch points could have made the difference in narrow losses against Texas and West Virginia.
Foster was the difference in his return against Oklahoma (17-8, 8-5), making a splash with 14 points and the most important shot of the night.
"He is a prolific scorer," said senior forward Nino Williams, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. "Since last year, since he has been in college, he has always hit big shots for us and we lean on him late in games. We live and die with Marcus. He always takes the big shot for us."
Of course, this night was not all about Foster. K-State thrived on free throws and defense until the final moments, attacking the basket to get to the line and making 28 of 36 free throws.
That helped offset a poor shooting night (26.5 percent) that featured 13 K-State baskets.
"Those gave us a chance," Weber said. "To win a game and only shoot 26 percent and only make 13 field goals, that is not going to happen every day."
Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu also provided big plays by scoring nine points and showing defensive grit. Edwards made two three-pointers, including one that beat the shot clock to give K-State a 46-41 lead in the second half.
Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, who scored 31 points against K-State last month, managed 14 points against Iwundu.
For much of the game, it appeared K-State would not need a clutch shot to win. It led 56-49 with 2:49 seconds remaining, and with Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler fouled out, the Wildcats had the upper hand.
But the Sooners scored seven straight to tie things at 56-56 with 1:39 remaining. Both teams traded empty possessions and then K-State set up for the game-winning shot. Foster ended up with the ball and decided to isolate himself on the perimeter, dribbling to his right until he found a comfortable spot and sent the ball flying toward the hoop and hit net with 3.4 seconds left.
"I guess we were just missing Marcus and a little extra scoring," Iwundu said. "It is good that he is back. Now we can go from here and get back focused on what we do."
Iwundu said Foster handled the suspension well.
"He was just happy to be back with the team," Iwundu said. "His emotions were high. He was very anxious to get things going, but I think he is happy to be back with us. We are happy for him, too."
K-State players seemed more relieved than excited when the game ended.
They needed a win. Any win.
As fate would have it, the Wildcats ended their losing streak against the hottest team in the conference. The Sooners entered the day on a five-game winning streak, giving K-State a sweep over a quality opponent.
"Their ballclub has been right there," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "They have fought and maintained great intensity. Credit Coach Weber for that. They lost five in a row, yet they played hard every time out."
That continues to be the goal now that Foster is back.
"It just shows that we haven't given up," Iwundu said. "We still carry a lot of heart and we still care. The season is not over. Never once did we consider quitting or giving up on the season. We are going to fight until the last game."