Loss to Cowboys puts Cats on the Bubble

STILLWATER, Okla. — Defense has been the main reason the Kansas State men's basketball team has played well enough to be on the cusp of making the NCAA Tournament.

Night in and night out the Wildcats have been holding teams under their season averages in field goal percentage and points scored.

That hasn't been the case lately, and Tuesday night K-State was exposed by Oklahoma State to the tune of an 84-70 loss in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys shot an astounding 54.9 percent from the field after not having shot better than 50 percent yet this season during conference play.

"We were not assertive. We were not good enough to be assertive," K-State coach Bob Huggins said. "Oklahoma State shot the ball really well and did a good job of spreading us out. We cannot give up 84 points in a game and win. We have to keep our opponents in the 60s and 70s."

Oklahoma State had five players score in double figures, while the Wildcats only had four players who scored more than three points.

The Cowboys (20-9, 6-8 Big 12 Conference) were in desperation of a win to help validate their possible NCAA Tournament hopes, and they played like a team with nothing to lose.

"We played with a smile on our face," Cowboy coach Sean Sutton said. "We played loose and we played confident. That was the first time in awhile that we were able to get someone down and keep them down."

They kept K-State (19-10, 9-6) down by playing with a tremendous amount of poise, and knocked down numerous big shots. Oklahoma State even ran a full court press during times when the lead was as high as 19.

The game was tied early at eight, but the Cowboys went on a 12-2 run to take a 10-point lead at the 11:18 mark in the first half.

Junior David Hoskins responded with an 8-0 run by himself to get K-State back within two. The game stayed close until the closing four minutes of the opening half. The Cowboys took a 29-27 lead and stretched it out to a 41-30 halftime lead with two big 3-pointers by sophomore Terrel Harris and layup baskets from senior David Monds.

Sophomore Byron Eaton put a stamp on the late run with a dunk at the buzzer. The Cowboys ran off the court in celebration while the Wildcats left holding their heads down, looking like a beaten team with still another half to play.

Oklahoma State went ahead by as many as 19 points in the second half, and K-State went on a 20-9 run with 3:50 left to pull within eight. The Wildcats played strong but made too many mistakes and were never able to get any closer.

Junior JamesOn Curry and Harris each scored 22 for Oklahoma State. The duo went 12-for-23 from the field and 13-for-14 from the foul line, while also knocking down seven combined 3-point shots. Curry also contributed with eight assists and Harris had eight rebounds.

Senior Mario Boggan had 17 points on senior night before being ejected with 38 seconds left after he headbutted senior Cartier Martin.

Martin and Hoskins both struggled to find open looks all game. Hoskins was able to go 8-for-10 from the field and he finished with 20 points before fouling out, but his shots didn't come easy.

Martin didn't have as much luck from the field but was able to score more points.

Whenever he was on the court, he would be guarded by the Cowboys' Marcus Dove. Dove held Martin to just 5-of-14 shooting from the floor, and he made only 3-of-8 3-point attempts. Martin did most of his damage from the free throw line, going 12-of-13.

Martin finished with a game-high 25 points, but he and Hoskins played limited minutes because they were both in foul trouble for the majority of the game.

Senior Lance Harris and junior Clent Stewart both had 10 points, but only two more players scored and they combined for five points.

Oklahoma State has now won nine straight games against K-State at home.

The loss for the Wildcats put a big dent in their NCAA Tournament resume. Saturday's matchup with Oklahoma in the season finale now becomes a must win if K-State wants any hopes of making the tournament for the first time since 1997.

"I still think we have a shot," Martin said. "We have to take care of business on Saturday. That game will be the most important game of our season."

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