Icy roads in Manhattan and throughout the area may have affected the crowd size, but they did nothing to slip up red-hot Kansas State basketball on Tuesday night.
A lock-down defensive effort and efficient offense again proved to be a winning combination for the Wildcats, who took control late in the first and knocked off No. 14-ranked Texas Tech, 58-45, at Bramlage Coliseum. With their fifth straight victory, the Wildcats improved to 15-4 overall and into a tie with Kansas for the Big 12 lead at 5-2. Tech, which lost its third straight, fell to 15-4 and 4-3.
“We dug out of the hole,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the winning streak that propelled the Wildcats to the top of the standings. “Not only were we 0-2, but the next one, West Virginia we were down 21 points, so we gotta give credit to our guys.
“You gotta give credit to Barry (Brown) and his leadership ... well, really all the guys.”
In a battle between the league’s top two defensive teams — Tech came in ranked second nationally in scoring defense and K-State fourth — it was the Wildcats who found enough offense when it mattered most, shooting 54.5 percent in the first half and finishing the game at 46.6. Texas Tech, which trailed by eight at halftime and got no closer than six in the second period, shot just 32.7 percent.
“The thing I emphasized to our guys was about toughness — they just out-tough people,” Weber said of Tech, which turned back a second-half Wildcat rally to prevail, 63-57, on Jan. 5 in Lubbock, Texas. “We talked about who was going to be the best defensive team on the court tonight and we hold them to 45.
“We do a great job. One of their guys kind of teases me and said, ‘Coach, I couldn’t even get a shot off,’ which is great. Our guys are bought into that.”
The Wildcats again turned to their senior leaders on offense, with Brown scoring 15 points and Dean Wade 13. Kamau Stokes had just eight but hit two big free throws to make it 54-43 with 3:13 left and added a dagger 3-pointer for a 58-43 cushion at the 1:30 mark.
The Wildcats’ field goal percentage was the highest this year against Texas Tech, which was holding opponents to 34.9 percent, best in the nation.
“We’ve made a lot of strides since Kennesaw State (in the season opener),” Weber said. “Moving the basketball with good spacing, sharing the ball, taking pride in winning the game.
“That’s always the big thing it comes down to. Every game is different. We’ve got so many guys that can make big plays.”
Defensively, the Wildcats never allowed Tech to get in a rhythm.
“Coach Weber said before the game, ‘Go out and be the best defensive team in the conference in this game,’ and that would prove we are the best physical team in the country because (Tech) is number one in a lot of statistics,” said Brown, who was matched up defensively on Red Raiders star guard Jarrett Culver for much of the game. “Before the game we had a good game plan on what to do and where to be on certain players.
“We went out and executed, did some switching, played some good one-on-one defense, got some rebounds and came out with the win.”
Culver led all scorers with 17 points for Texas Tech, but was just 6 for 16 from the field and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. Tariq Owens added 12 points.
K-State out-rebounded Tech, 33-25, getting seven from Brown and six from Xavier Sneed, whose five points included a big 3-pointer with just under six minutes left. Culver had seven rebounds and Owens six for the Red Raiders.
K-State never trailed by more than two points in the game and used a 15-3 run late in the first half to seize control. Wade’s free-throw line jumper tied it at 15 with 8:52 left in the period and Brown banked in a 3-pointer at the 7:35 mark to put the Wildcats in front to stay.
K-State finished the spurt with eight straight points, capped by a Mike McGuirl driving layup with 2:02 to go in the half to make it 28-18. The Wildcats led 32-24 at the break.
In the second half, K-State used a seven-point run to extend its lead to 46-33 on a McGuirl 3-pointer and back-to-back Brown layups, the second off a steal with 10:25 left. McGuirl came off the bench to finish with nine points.
But a Davide Moretti 3-pointer and two Culver free throws got it back to single digits for Tech. Two foul shots from Wade and Sneed’s corner 3-pointer pushed it back to 13, 51-38, only to have the Red Raiders answer with a Matt Mooney jumper and Moretti 3, trimming it to 51-43 at the 5:04 mark.
That proved to be the last gasp for the Red Raiders as K-State converted four free throws and punctuated it with the Stokes 3-pointer.
K-State takes a break from league play Saturday to face Texas A&M in the Big 12/SEC Challenge at College Station, Texas. They then play at Oklahoma State on Feb. 2 before returning to Bramlage on Feb. 5 to face Kansas in first Sunflower Showdown.
KANSAS ST. 58, No. 14 TEXAS TECH 45
TEXAS TECH (15-4)
Odiase 1-1 0-0 2, Mooney 1-9 0-0 2, Moretti 2-6 0-0 6, Culver 6-16 4-5 17, Francis 0-3 2-2 2, Corprew 1-3 0-0 2, Owens 5-8 0-0 12, Edwards 0-3 2-4 2. Totals 16-49 8-11 45.
KANSAS ST. (15-4)
Mawien 3-6 1-2 7, Wade 3-6 7-8 13, Sneed 2-3 0-0 5, Brown 6-11 1-5 15, Stokes 1-6 5-5 8, Stockard 0-0 0-0 0, Diarra 0-0 1-2 1, Neal-Williams 0-0 0-0 0, McGuirl 4-9 0-0 9. Totals 19-41 15-22 58.
Halftime — Kansas St. 32-24. 3-Point Goals — Texas Tech 5-23 (Owens 2-4, Moretti 2-5, Culver 1-6, Corprew 0-1, Francis 0-1, Edwards 0-2, Mooney 0-4), Kansas St. 5-17 (Brown 2-7, Stokes 1-2, Sneed 1-2, McGuirl 1-5, Wade 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Texas Tech 24 (Culver 7), Kansas St. 31 (Brown 7). Assists — Texas Tech 7 (Mooney, Culver 3), Kansas St. 7 (Stokes 3). Total Fouls — Texas Tech 19, Kansas St. 16. A — 11,134 (12,528).