The Cowboys improve to 11-2 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 play, while the Wildcats fall to 7-7 and 0-1.
Forte and Nash combined to score 31 points but it was the play of Anthony Hickey and Jeff Newberry in the second half that made the difference. Neither of the OSU guards scored in the first half (combining to take only four shots) but they asserted themselves during the first nine minutes of the second half, playing vital roles in a 25-4 run which turned a four-point deficit into a 54-37 lead.
Kansas State expanded its two-point halftime lead to 33-29 on Thomas Gipson’s basket just a few minutes into the second half. But that’s when Hickey and Newberry went to work.
The 5-foot-11 Hickey missed the only two shots he took in the first half but drilled a 3-pointer from in front of the Cowboys bench to get things rolling. He scored the first seven points during the run and the Cowboys were off and running.
Over the next seven minutes, led by Hickey, Newberry and Forte, the Cowboys forced Kansas State into six turnovers and only allowed the Wildcats two baskets.
Hickey, Newberry (four free throws and a run-capping 3-pointer from the corner) and Forte each scored seven points during the seven-minute stretch which turned the ball around. Nash and Michael Cobbins each added two points during the run but it was the defensive pressure applied by the three Cowboys guards that rattled the Wildcats.
“I thought our defensive intensity in the second half created some points for us. Anthony Hickey really changed the game. He gave us a lot of momentum with his defense,” said OSU head coach Travis Ford.
“(Hickey’s) on the ball pressure was terrific, and we got a lot of deflections in the first four minutes of the second half by Hickey, Jeff Newberry and a lot of guys. That’s an indication of how active we are. We were very active in the second half, and that led to some easy baskets for us.
“Anthony Hickey, that’s his job. As I tell him, that’s on his resume. He’s got to lead us defensively and kind of set the tone for us.”
Hickey’s play caught the attention of Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber, who saw his team shoot just 29.2 percent from the field in the second half after making 10 of 21 shots (47.6 percent) in the first half.
“Their point guard, obviously, Hickey makes a big difference for them,” Weber said. “They just out-toughed us in that little four-minute flurry, and they made some threes in that stretch.That little run was the difference in the game, and we started doubting.”
Forte and Nash were combining to average 35 points per game but weren’t disappointed that they combined for just 31 in Saturday’s victory. Forte finished with a game-high 20 points while Nash (11 points), Hickey (10) and Newberry (10) also scored in double figures.
Also, freshman Tavarius Shine scored all eight of his points, including a pair of three-pointers, in the first half. Those points were needed since only three Cowboys scored in the first half (Forte with 11, with Nash and Shine contributing eight each).
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Cowboys over the next two weeks with four consecutive games against Big 12 team ranked about the nation’s top 18. They go on the road to No. 9 Iowa State on Tuesday night before returning home next Saturday against No. 11 Texas. Road trips to No. 13 Kansas (Jan. 13) and No. 18 Oklahoma (Jan. 17) follow before coming home to Gallagher-Iba Arena.