Kansas State basketball players said all the politically correct things Thursday night when asked who they wanted to play in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
Whether it was Baylor or Oklahoma State, they said the challenge would be the same. The opponent didn’t matter.
Still, it was obvious the Wildcats were eager for a rematch with Oklahoma State.
“We just lost to those guys,” senior guard Martavious Irving said. “So why not play them again?”
The Cowboys ended K-State’s hopes of winning an outright Big 12 championship less than a week ago in Stillwater. It was a difficult loss for the Wildcats to take. Oklahoma State jumped out to a six-point lead at halftime, K-State rallied to take a nine-point lead in the second half and held a 61-57 lead with less than 5 minutes remaining, but Oklahoma State surged ahead late to win 76-70.
The game featured intense play on both ends, conference championship implications, controversial calls (K-State coach Bruce Weber was critical of a late charging call against Angel Rodriguez, saying during his postgame radio interview that Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart “flopped”) and some overly aggressive play from Smart.
Some have accused Smart of taking a swing at Shane Southwell. He was also seen shoving Will Spradling out of bounds with a forearm to the chest. Smart wasn’t called for a foul on either play, but K-State players remember them all the same.
Emotions should be high tonight when they face off at Sprint Center. K-State wants some revenge and the chance to play for a Big 12 Tournament championship. Oklahoma State is trying to add another impressive victory to its resume.
K-State is a two-point favorite, and it will have a crowd advantage tonight. But the Wildcats will need to fix some problems that went wrong last weekend.
On Saturday, Angel Rodriguez played his worst game in months (missing 13 shots and losing four turnovers), Nino Williams and Southwell both fouled out and starting forward Jordan Henriquez was a non-factor while battling a back injury that also limited his play Thursday night.
Without him, K-State had no answer for Le’Bryan Nash, who won the game for Oklahoma State. The sophomore forward abused the Wildcats inside for 24 points, making 10 of 12 shots and also grabbing five rebounds. When K-State beat Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum, Nash spent most of his time on the perimeter as a small forward and he scored six points. He switched to power forward at Gallagher-Iba Arena and had a huge day scoring almost exclusively on dunks and layups.
K-State needs Henriquez or Thomas Gipson to make things more difficult for him tonight. If that happens, and Rodriguez plays at a higher level, the Wildcats might get the revenge they are seeking. If not, Oklahoma State might ruin K-State’s chances of a Big 12 Tournament championship.