LUBBOCK (AP) – Wesley Iwundu was in the right place at the right time, recovering a loose ball and answering with a three-point play to take a 57-56 lead with 55 seconds to go and give Kansas State the final boost it needed and secure a much-needed 60-56 road win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night.
“It was kind of a surprise for me,” Iwundu said. “I wasn’t expecting it but I guess I was just in the right spot at the right time to make the big play.”
Iwundu scored 11 points in the second half and 12 on the night.
Marcus Foster led the way for Kansas State with 17 points, shooting 3 of 6 from beyond the arc and Thomas Gipson and Will Spradling each scored 10.
“I just felt that we deserved those plays cause we just played so hard and I feel when you play hard you end up getting the ball to bounce your way,” Foster said.
Dejan Kravic led the Red Raiders with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks and Jordan Tolbert added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The win snapped a six-game road losing streak for the Wildcats, dating back to an 86-60 loss at Kansas on Jan. 11.
“I showed a little video and it talks about brick walls,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Why are brick walls there? To show you how much you want it and what you’re going to do with it. We talked a lot about ‘Are you about winning or are you about yourself?’ We had to re-focus as a group.”
Texas Tech (13-15) led by as many as nine, 38-29, with 13:02 to go but the Wildcats (19-9) responded with a 25-9 run, including nine consecutive to end the run with a seven-point lead, 54-47 with 4:34 to go.
Iwundu scored the go-ahead free throw to complete a three-point play after a layup with 55 seconds to go to make it 57-56. Spradling added one free throw when Tech was forced to foul, then Iwundu put in a layup with 1 second to go after a Red Raider turnover to close the win.
“We played well, I thought, for 39 minutes until the end,” Kravic said. “It was all those 50-50 balls and we didn’t get a loose ball, they got it and got an and-1 and it kind of turned the game around.”
Kansas State led for most of the first half until Kravic sank two free throws to take a 17-16 lead with 7:06 left in the half. The Wildcats regained the lead on a pair of Gipson free throws to make it 25-24 with 1:05 until the break, but Dusty Hannahs hit a jumper with 41 seconds in the half and the Red Raiders took a 26-25 lead into the locker room.
The Red Raiders came out of the break fired up and built the lead to as many as nine points on a Kravic layup with 13:02 to go, but the Wildcats fought back and took their first lead in almost fifteen minutes on an Iwundu dunk with 5:35 to go to make it 48-47.
That dunk ignited a 9-0 Kansas State run led by Nino Williams and capped off with a 3-pointer by Spradling to boost the Wildcats ahead 54-47.
That 3-pointer put Spradling in the school record books as the 25th player at Kansas State to score 1,000 points. The win also gives coach Bruce Weber the best two-year start in Kansas State history with 46 wins, passing Lon Kruger.
Texas Tech called a timeout and regained focus with a run of its own, scoring seven points in 44 seconds, between 3:33 and 2:49, to tie it 54-54.
Kansas State took a timeout with the game tied and 1:27 on the clock and Weber told his men to “just keep fighting and battling. Somebody make a play. The ball will bounce your way if you have a good attitude.”
A few Red Raiders were on the floor fighting for a loose ball that Kansas State recovered and got into the hands of Iwundu, who maneuvered around Hannahs for a layup and a trip to the line. Iwundu made the shot to take a 57-56 lead with 55 seconds to go.
“We do a good job of coming back, when you’re behind I guess that’s what you do,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “We fight, but we certainly can’t keep a lead.”
When Texas Tech was forced to foul, Spradling made the first of two free throws to lead 58-56. The Red Raiders missed an opportunity to tie or win as a miscommunication resulted in Robert Turner turning the ball over to Foster, which led to an Iwundu layup.
“We’ve got a chance to be a five, six, seven, eight seed, somewhere in there and there’s a lot of good things that can happen so we’ve had to do a lot of talking and prodding and psychological things, motivational stuff and I hope now this game gets us over the hump a little bit,” Weber said.
The Red Raiders out-rebounded the Wildcats 34-24 and scored 16 second chance points to the Wildcats four but didn’t close it out in the final minute.
“Rebounding is good if you can capitalize on it.” Smith said. “It’s only good if you can capitalize at the other end and we did some real bonehead things tonight and it cost us.”
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