MANHATTAN, Kansas — Kansas State and Texas Tech have two of the four highest-rated defenses in the country. They didn’t disappoint Tuesday night.
In a preview of the tough test that awaits Big 12 opponents, the Wildcats ground down the 14th-ranked Red Raiders 58-45 on Tuesday night. Kansas State held Tech to a season low in points and hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 71 this season.
“First of all, it is about K-State’s defense,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “One team has broken 70 on them this year, and we knew it was going to be a difficult game to score so we set up a game plan.”
That game plan didn’t work. Barry Brown Jr. had 15 points, Dean Wade scored 13 and Mike McGuirl added nine as K-State hit big shot after big shot.
“Everyone is coming to win and play their best game,” Brown said. “Especially knowing you’ve won five straight, everyone is trying to stop your momentum.”
The Big 12’s top-ranked defenses combined to force 30 turnovers. The Wildcats (15-4, 5-2) held Texas Tech to 33-percent shooting and never let the Red Raiders get their offense rolling.
Jarrett Culver led Texas Tech (15-4, 4-3) with 17 points. Tariq Owens had 12.
The Wildcats outrebounded Texas Tech 33-25 overall and 27-18 on the defensive side, limiting second-chance points.
The Red Raiders struggled to contain Brown in the first half. He had two step-back 3-pointers and 11 points. Wade was a mismatch as well, with Red Raider big man Norense Odiase called for three fouls in the first half. He only played five minutes.
Owens scored seven points off the bench in Odiase’s absence, keeping Texas Tech in it, but Kansas State led 32-24 at the half.
“They made shots,” Beard said. “They were aggressive, they got to the free-throw line and late in the game when we were trying to come back from a deficit they got good looks.”
The Wildcats led 46-38 midway through the second half before Wade made two free throws and Xavier Sneed hit a 3. The Red Raiders got back within eight but couldn’t get any closer.
“I think the biggest improvement we’ve made from the start of the season is passing the ball and slowly I think we are becoming a better offensive team,” coach Bruce Weber said.
After Tuesday night, the teams seem to be going in different directions. K-State has won five straight while the Red Raiders have lost their last three games after starting 4-0 in Big 12 play. Beard thinks the Wildcats are built for a title run this year and was quick to give them credit after the loss.
“This is one of the best teams in the country,” he said. “Now they have won five straight, which is a direct reflection of the character of the guys they have on their team.”
K-State is in a tie for first in the conference with Kansas, which has won 14 straight regular-season titles. The Wildcats will clash with the Jayhawks for the first of two meetings on Feb. 5th at home.
“Well we dug out of the hole and not only were we 0-2, but we were down 21 points to West Virginia,” Weber said. “There’s a lot more coming up and as I said, these next two road games are very, very important.”
Texas Tech has lost three straight games after starting 4-0 in conference play. They will need to get the ship going back in the right direction soon.
Kansas State has won five straight and looks to be one of the best teams in the Big 12.
Texas Tech will be home Saturday against Arkansas in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
K-State plays at Texas A&M on Saturday.