MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) – Kansas State was coming off two tough losses on the road, and its three leading scorers were struggling to make a shot against Texas Tech’s length and athleticism.
Leave it to a less-heralded cast of players to come through in the clutch.
Will Spradling scored a season-high 17 points, Nino Williams added 13 off the bench and the Wildcats (15-6, 5-3 Big 12) made a series of foul shots down the stretch to preserve a 66-58 victory Tuesday night.
Kansas State wound up getting 25 points from its bench.
“We’ve done it in other games. This isn’t the only game we’ve relied on them,” Spradling said. “Our bench has been a real factor for us.”
Especially the way their stars were struggling: Marcus Foster had two points on 1-for-8 shooting, Shane Southwell missed all six of his 3-point shots and finished with four points, and Thomas Gipson scored seven before fouling out.
“We knew they had a deep bench,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said, “and they utilized it very effectively.”
The Red Raiders (10-11, 2-6) closed within 48-47 midway through the second half, but the stingiest defense in the Big 12 kept answering the call, and Texas Tech never regained the lead.
The Wildcats made 12 consecutive free throws in the closing minutes to seal it.
“The first half we came out real slow. In the second half we started to pick it up,” said Jaye Crockett, who led Texas Tech with 15 points. “We just did it too late.”
Dusty Hannahs finished with 14 points for the Red Raiders, who have lost eight straight in the series. Jordan Tolbert was held to three points on 0-for-3 shooting.
“It’s not good enough,” Hannahs said. “We can’t just pride ourselves on moral victories.”
Kansas State methodically built a 32-20 halftime advantage on the strength of its defense, which made the Red Raiders look downright silly in the way it harassed them around the rim.
Crockett managed just three points and two boards in the first half, and Robert Turner was the only Texas Tech player to make more than one field goal — he had two.
“We were missing a lot of easy shots,” Crockett said with a shake of his head.
As awful as the Red Raiders were on offense, though, they actually jumped out to a 9-8 lead. But the Wildcats answered with a 16-2 charge, taking advantage of 10-minute stretch in which the visitors were 1 of 10 from the floor and turned the ball over four times.
“They’re real aggressive, and they were switching when they needed to switch,” Crockett said. “They follow good defensive principles and they made it work.”
Until the second half, when Hannahs spurred Texas Tech’s comeback.
The sophomore guard scored nine straight points shortly out of the break, and a 3-pointer by Crockett got the Red Raiders within one. Kansas State tried to regain control with six quick points, but Hannahs buried another 3 to answer the run.
“We were giving up easy layups in the second half and letting them get easy shots,” Spradling said, “and that’s when we turned it on the defensive end and made stops.”
Spradling made a couple of foul shots, and then Wesley Iwundu scored a sloppy bucket at the rim after a scrum in the paint to give Kansas State a 58-52 lead with 2½ minutes to go.
Crockett made a couple of free throws to cut into the lead with 45 seconds left, and Kansas State promptly threw away the inbounds pass. But before the Red Raiders ever got a chance to set up their offense, Spradling picked the pocket of Randy Onwuasor to get the ball back.
Spradling was fouled and made both free throws, and the parade to the foul line began in earnest. Southwell added two more moments later, Williams added the next two, and Spradling made two more with 6.2 seconds left to seal the victory.
“You have to give them credit. It was a gut-check,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “We made some plays down the stretch and we’ve been able to do that.”
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