Following three straight victories over ranked teams, including two on the road, No. 11 Kansas State returns home in an effort to extend its winning streak with a visit from Oklahoma State on Tuesday at Manhattan, Kan.
The Wildcats are on an eight-game winning streak, the program’s longest since the 2013-14 season.
Kansas State (14-1, 3-0 Big 12) is off to its best start since 1958-59, and the three straight wins over ranked teams mark the first time that’s happened in school history. They were picked last in the Big 12 preseason poll and unranked until this week.
There has been plenty of credit to go around, but no one has been bigger than the smallest guy on the court. Markquis Nowell, the Wildcats’ 5-foot-8 point guard, has scored 30 points in back-to-back games, becoming the first K-State player to do that since Michael Beasley in four consecutive games in 2008.
After scoring 36 at then-No. 6 Texas, Nowell had 32 points and 14 assists against then-No. 19 Baylor in the Wildcats’ 97-95 overtime victory Saturday. It was the first 30-point, 10-assist game in K-State history.
“A train is a very powerful piece of machinery, but if you put it on sand, it can’t go anywhere,” head coach Jerome Tang after the game. “All we’ve done as a staff is just put some tracks under (Markquis) so that he can go wherever he wants to within the boundaries of the tracks.
“Markquis by nature is a tiger. And the tiger’s bigger, stronger, faster than a lion. But the lion’s the king of the jungle, and we’ve been helping Markquis learn how to be a lion for parts of the game. The tiger will only eat what it kills, and so at the right times in the game, we need him to be a tiger, just go eat and kill. He’s learning when and how to do that.”
Nowell is fifth in the Big 12 in scoring at 17.0 points per game, while teammate Keyontae Johnson is third at 18.8 points as they have formed the best-scoring duo in the conference.
Oklahoma State (9-6, 1-2) will try to slow down a K-State offense that has scored 213 points the last two games. The Cowboys rank second in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 61.5 points allowed per game.
Against Texas on Saturday, it was the offense that was an issue as visiting Oklahoma State fell 56-46.
“I’m disappointed in our offensive output,” head coach Mike Boynton said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Texas. They played highly motivated defensively. It’s a response league, and they responded better than we did.
“We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and play more consistently.”
Kalib Boone had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma State, which was without Moussa Cisse (ankle), the Big 12’s leading rebounder at 9.9 per game.
Texas led 32-24 at halftime despite shooting 32.1 percent in the first half, while holding Oklahoma State to 33.3 percent over the opening 20 minutes. An alley-oop dunk by Boone cut Texas’ lead to 43-41 and Caleb Asberry followed with a 3-pointer that gave the Cowboys a 44-43 lead with 8:20 remaining.
Texas closed on a 13-2 run to earn the victory.
–Field Level Media