MANHATTAN — The Kansas State Wildcats finally found a way to finish what they started.
After blowing a late lead in their Big 12 opener at Oklahoma earlier this month, the Wildcats never let the Sooners off the hook in the rematch Wednesday night as they held on for a wire-to-wire 61-53 victory over the Sooners at Bramlage Coliseum.
Even so, the Wildcats made it interesting, nearly squandering an 11-point lead in the final minute, thanks to some shaky free-throw shooting and a blown breakaway dunk by DaJuan Gordon. Not until Mike McGuirl drained 5 of 6 foul shots in the last 17 seconds was the victory secured.
Nonetheless, it was a second straight home-court victory for K-State, which improved to 9-11 overall and 2-5 in the Big 12, while OU fell to 13-7 and 3-4. The Wildcats also ran their winning streak to eight straight over the Sooners at Bramlage.
The Wildcats did it primarily with defense, limiting Oklahoma to 35.3% shooting and turning the Sooners over 19 times. K-State shot just 37.1%, but had just eight turnovers.
"We talked about energy and effort — that was our number one thing on the board," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "I thought it was great effort.
"They're one of the best teams at taking care of the ball in the country — I think fourth in turnovers. You get 19, you get 18 points off those turnovers. We were very, very active."
That fact was not lost on Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger.
"I thought K-State outplayed us in every way," Kruger said. "They were much more ready to play and established a little bit of a margin early and really played with it most of the night.
"I thought K-State battled like crazy and did things that we didn't respond very well to."
The Wildcats, who were outscored 12-0 at the end of their 66-61 loss at Oklahoma on Jan. 4, nearly let the Sooners back in it down the stretch. But they had enough of a cushion and finally some help from McGuirl at the foul line to survive.
K-State led 56-45 on David Sloan's free throw with 1:04 left before OU went on an 8-1 run, cutting it to 57-53 on Victor Iwuakor's 3-pointer with 10.7 seconds on the clock. It all started after Gordon came up with a steal and went in for a tomahawk dunk, only to carom it off the rim, leading to an Austin Reaves three at the other end.
The Wildcats also missed four straight free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one from McGuirl and two by Xavier Sneed before McGuirl knocked down his last five.
"It shouldn't have been close. I'm a little disappointed in that," Weber said. "But once they cut it to six, now get the ball inbounds and take care of it. Mike made a couple of free throws.
"Obviously DaJuan, it's a learning lesson for him and (we) still get a win."
McGuirl, in his second game back after sitting out three with a concussion, led the Wildcats with 16 points off the bench. Sneed added 12 points and Cartier Diarra 10, with Makol Mawien grabbing 10 rebounds and Sloan finishing with five assists.
"It felt great to be out there," said McGuirl, who was 4 of 5 from the field, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range. "I'm just trying to do my part and do my best to help the team win and we were able to win tonight, which was very much needed."
Oklahoma got 15 points off the bench from Aldones Williams and 12 from Reaves. Kristian Doolittle led the Sooners to a 40-36 rebounding advantage with 11.
K-State limited OU's big three of Brady Manek (15.7 points per game), Doolittle (15.4) and Reaves (14.4) to a combined 23 points on 6 of 24 shooting.
The Wildcats scored the game's first six points and led 25-12 with six minutes left in the half before missing 12 of their last 13 shots and settling for a 28-22 lead at the break. They then opened the second half with a nine-point run to go up 37-22 on a Montavious Murphy corner 3-pointer. The Wildcats shut OU out for the first 5:25 of the period and held a double-digit lead until the Sooners' final surge.
"We know we've been right there," McGuirl said of K-State's early Big 12 struggles. "We know we've been on the losing side of a lot of close games, and we know that we can beat anybody.
"It feels good to get a win, get some momentum and just feel good, and now we've got a challenge ahead of us and we're going to prepare the best we can."
The Wildcats travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against the Mountaineers, who they beat 84-68 on Jan. 18 at Bramlage for their only other league victory.