Wildcats stunned by Cyclones, 72-70

31 Jan

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Wildcats had won five in a row in Hilton Coliseum. Frank Martin had coached Kansas State to victories in seven of eight games against the Cyclones. Many thought this matchup would be one of the easiest on the Wildcats’ schedule.

All that changed as Royce White scored 22 points to lead the Cyclones to defeat Kansas State 72-70 in the waning seconds of the game.

With the Wildcats in front 70-69, Rodney McGruder dribbled determinedly down the middle of the lane and rose to shoot. Despite contact from two different Cyclones, the referees stayed silent. In contrast, the announcers called a foul immediately. When they had to rebuke themselves, they did so with astonishment.

“Are you kidding me?” “That was a mugging!”

Coach Frank Martin berated the referees mercilessly for the apparent oversight, but the game continued unaffected.

Chris Babb made a free throw to tie the game 70-70 but missed his second attempt. Melvin Ejim rebounded it. Scott Christopherson – who went 1 of 6 from the field – shot and also missed. Ejim rebounded it again. He put the ball back up and could not convert either. Yet again, the Cylones came away with the ball. This time they took a timeout.

With 22 seconds left to play, Iowa State had possession. Eventually, the ball wound up down in the paint in the hands of none other than White.

His bucket with 1.8 seconds remaining gave the Cyclones a 72-70 lead, and the Wildcats did not get off a shot before time expired. The loss marked the second time in a week’s span that a win has eluded Kansas State by just one basket.

Early in the game, Martavious Irving stepped up for the Wildcats, hitting three 3-pointers on his way to an 11-point performance in the first half. Thomas Gipson finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds, and Victor Ojeleye had 3 points and 10 rebounds.

McGruder scored only 5 points in the first half, but he hit three baskets to open up the second half. As he finally starting getting comfortable, the Wildcats amassed a 53-49 lead five minutes after the break. The tables turned when the Cyclones scored seven unanswered points, cutting Kansas State’s advantage in half.

With a little less than seven minutes to play, Iowa State trailed by just three points, 63-60. A pair of free throws by Gipson gave Kansas State five points of breathing room, but the Cyclones quickly closed the gap again.

They would not retake the lead until that final sequence, making it all the more devastating for the Wildcats.

In the first half, Kansas State and Iowa State traded leads continuously. With the Wildcats down by two, Gipson scored back-to-back baskets at the rim to ignite a 13-4 run that starred three consecutive buckets by Irving and put the Wildcats ahead 31-24 with two and a half minutes until the break.

Kansas State would build on its 36-29 halftime lead, but it could not stop Iowa State’s slow and steady comeback in the final minutes.

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