Having lost five of its last six games and sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, Kansas State expected to begin its stretch run with urgency.
That plan did not come to fruition.
A seemingly disinterested K-State team fell in a big hole early and never fully recovered in a 87-79 loss to Iowa State Wednesday night.
“We didn’t fight on defense,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We let them do whatever they wanted. They got on a run and got some confidence.”
The Cyclones (16-9, 8-5 Big 12) jumped out to an 18-4 lead in the first eight minutes and led by as many as 19 in a dominant first half. ISU shot 61 percent from the field in the period.
K-State’s D.J. Johnson, who missed last Saturday’s game at No. 13 West Virginia with a sprained ankle, was held out of the starting lineup but entered the game with 15:52 left in the first half.
He never looked like himself, however, and was held scoreless in just 11 minutes of action.
“He told us he wanted to help us tonight, but he hasn’t practiced,” Weber said. “We wanted to see if he could give us anything.”
ISU freshman forward Solomon Young, averaging just 3.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game this season, scored 12 in the first half alone for the Cyclones, who beat K-State for a fourth straight time. Young finished the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Similar to the first meeting between these teams, the Wildcats (16-10, 5-8) battled back in the second half. A 12-0 run got them within 7 with 11:45 to play, and they were within six at multiple points down the stretch. But K-State could not get enough stops on the defense end to complete the comeback.
Barry Brown, who has struggled over the last couple weeks, reemerged and scored 21 points to lead four Wildcats in double figures. But bench production was a big problem again, as K-State’s reserves were held to seven points.
“We played better all around in the second half,” Weber said. “We made shots and attacked the hoop. We just put ourselves in a bad spot early in the game.”
K-State plays at Texas on Saturday, looking for a season sweep of the Longhorns.