MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

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January 15, 2014

No. 25 Sooners upset in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan.   — Nino Williams was having a confidence crisis in November.

Kansas State’s junior forward had endured a miserable stretch of games, his shot never seemed to be falling, and he was suddenly spending most of games on the bench. So he sat down with coach Bruce Weber for a heart-to-heart meeting, and Williams came away emboldened.

“He said, ‘Stay positive. You’re going to get your chance,”’ Williams said. “He said, ‘Be confident in yourself. Your team needs you.”’

Never more than Tuesday night.

Williams made four clinching free throws in the closing seconds, helping the Wildcats hold on to beat No.  25 Oklahoma 72-66.

“I’m a confident person, if you’ve been around me,” Williams said, “and I just feel like at the end of the game, it’s like the first five minutes. Relax and shoot my shots.”

Marcus Foster scored 18 points and Shane Southwell added 16 to lead the Wildcats (13-4, 3-1 Big 12), who rallied from a 62-56 deficit with just over 5 minutes to play.

Ryan Spangler had a career-high 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Buddy Hield scored 12 points for Oklahoma (13-4, 2-2), but it wasn’t enough to offset a lousy night by Cameron Clark.

The Big 12’s leading scorer, Clark was held to just two points on 1-for-9 shooting, and was stripped of the ball with 24.5 seconds left and the Sooners trailing 67-64.

The turnover forced Oklahoma to foul, and Williams made both free throws. Je’lon Hornbeak missed a 3-pointer at the other end, and Williams made two more free throws to seal the game.

“Tough game,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I thought down the stretch Kansas State did some really good things, made shots they needed to, got loose balls. We didn’t convert.”

Wesley Iwundu added 11 points for Kansas State, which rebounded nicely from a blowout loss at Kansas over the weekend. Williams and Will Spradling finished with 10 points apiece.

“They’ve really turned their year around,” Kruger said.

The Sooners, the highest scoring team in the Big 12, got the up-and-down game they wanted in the first half. The only problem was that Kansas State, which tends to struggle offensively but is the league’s best on defense, was knocking down shots from all over the court.

The Wildcats hit 3-pointers on five straight trips midway through the first half. Foster had the first three, thumping his chest on his way back to the bench after the last of them.

“I think that got them a little rattled,” Southwell said. “When you hit 3s and get momentum like that, it’s really big on both sides of the ball.”

Kansas State eventually pushed its lead to 28-19 on Iwundu’s 3-pointer before the Sooners started to find some success in the paint. Isaiah Cousins’ driving layup started an 18-5 run over the next 7 minutes, capped by Hield’s basket for a 37-33 lead.

The Wildcats answered with a 3 by Southwell, and Spradling was fouled just before the halftime buzzer and made three free throws to give Kansas State a 39-38 lead.

Oklahoma slowly took control in the second half as the Wildcats cooled off.

Spangler’s three-point play with 6 1/2 minutes left gave the Sooners a 58-56 lead, and a breezy jumper by Cousins from just inside the 3-point arc extended the lead with about 5 minutes to play.

“Anybody on our team can score,” Spangler said. “We’re just going to have to have someone else step up if we’re having an off night. We didn’t do that well enough tonight.”

That opening allowed Kansas State to claw right back.

Big man Thomas Gipson stuck back a miss by Southwell for his first field goal with 2:59 left in the game to knot it 63-all. Foster then buried a 3-pointer from right in front of Weber to give the Wildcats a 66-63 lead.

They managed to hold onto the lead through a tense closing stretch.

“I told the team, ‘They’re a team of runs,”’ Weber said. “We started the game great on defense. They were struggling and we didn’t get out as far as we should have. They made a run, we made a run, they made the run, and we were just fortunate at the end to make the run that gave us the victory.”

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