The Kansas State Wildcats saw their three-game winning streak come to an end despite having the final shot in a one-score game, losing to the Marquette Golden Eagles 64-63.
While there were several good offensive performances for K-State in the loss, the absence of sophomore guard Nijel Pack for the second consecutive game proved devastating down the stretch. With the game within reach, the Wildcats were noticeably lacking a go-to scoring threat.
It was a close, back-and-forth matchup all night, with only one three-possession lead for either team over the course of the game. That was a seven-point advantage for Marquette in the final few minutes of the game, forcing K-State to battle back in Wednesday night’s waning moments.
The Wildcats did, indeed, battle back, matching a late Golden Eagles three with one of their own and rebounding a missed free throw to snag the last possession of the game. Sophomore guard Ismael Massoud ended up with the final shot, but had a reverse layup blocked at the buzzer to end the comeback bid.
“I should have done a better job of seeing how much time was left,” Massoud said. “Before that possession, we were in the huddle talking about, ‘If he’s going to miss this free throw,’ and trying to get something to the basket … I was just trying to get to the basket, maybe I should have kicked it out or something like that, but I was just trying to draw a foul and get a layup.”
The close score mirrored the overall statistical similarities between the Wildcats and Golden Eagles on Wednesday night. K-State shot 39.1% from the field (25-of-64) compared to 41.3% for Marquette (26-of-63), while each team shot under 30% from three and both squads had exactly 11 turnovers.
K-State had three double-digit scorers in the game, all of whom were the program’s three transfers this year. Senior guard Mark Smith had a game-high 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, while Massoud went 6-of-14 for 16 points and junior guard Markquis Nowell added 11. Smith also tied for the game high in rebounds with eight.
“All three of those guys were very, very productive for us,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “[We] just didn’t have enough. One point shy at the half, one point shy at the end.”
Marquette was led by 15 points from guard Kam Jones, who went 4-of-8 from three-point range in a winning effort. Those were eight of 37 three-point attempts for the Golden Eagles in the game.
“We’ve to get healthy, get guys back, and then continue to make strikes and get better,” Weber said. “Credit to Marquette, they keeping coming at you.”
There’s optimism among the Wildcats despite this loss, however, due to their overall level of play and three wins in four games since going winless at the Hall of Fame Classic last month.
“I feel like we’ve definitely grown a lot,” Smith said. “I feel like our defense is really starting to buy in to coach Weber and we’re all learning it, and a couple of us new guys, I think we’re starting to get the defense now, too. I feel like we’re right there, we just got to keep growing and just keep getting better as a team.”
With the loss, the Wildcats are now 5-3 overall this season with four nonconference games left before the start of Big 12 play. K-State’s next game will be Sunday afternoon at home once again to face Green Bay.
Click below to hear from K-State coach Bruce Weber and the Wildcats following their 64-63 loss to Marquette.