This changes everything.
The same Kansas State team that hit rock bottom with three straight losses last week is now riding high, strutting home with more confidence than it has displayed all season.
The transition was made Saturday during a 66-63 overtime victory over No. 16 Oklahoma on at Noble Center.
“This is a big-time win,” sophomore K-State guard Marcus Foster said. “Oklahoma is a very good team — in my eyes, one of the best teams in the conference. It is just a real good win for us, especially being away. It was so hard for us to get away wins last year and we finally got one. We are figuring out what we need to do to.”
No one more than Foster.
He was the hero of this game. First, he sent it to overtime by breaking down Oklahoma’s defense with a runner on the final scoring play of regulation. Then he won it with a deep three on the final scoring play of the night.
“Get it in his hands,” coach Bruce Weber said of his late-game strategy. “The runner was unbelievable … the huge three at the end was big time.”
Foster created something out of nothing on both plays, ending his night with 14 points.
He also lifted K-State (9-7, 2-1 Big 12) to its first truly impressive victory, giving the No. 16 Sooners (11-4, 2-1) their first home loss, and giving Weber his first road win over a ranked opponent since taking over as coach.
“We told them we were coming here to win,” Weber said. “I told them we were going to make ‘SportsCenter’ tonight for a good reason. Two weeks ago we made it for a bad reason. We had a lot of guys step up … we had a lot of guys play well.
“The last thing I put on the board was, ‘Somebody be special.’ Marcus was awfully special.”
He needed to be. Before Foster stepped up, K-Sate appeared doomed.
Though it controlled things much of the way, leading at halftime and holding a 44-36 advantage in the second half, an ill-timed scoring drought put Oklahoma ahead in the final minutes of regulation until Foster led a rally.
After Justin Edwards, who had nine points, hit a contested layup to give K-State a 51-48 lead with 5:47 remaining, the Wildcats didn’t score again until they trailed 55-51 and the game clock switched from minutes to seconds.
With Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield scoring 31 points and the Oklahoma crowd on its feet, things were certainly in the Sooners’ favor.
Then Foster took over.
“Any shot is a good shot for him,” Hield said after defending Foster. “He elevated and put up a good shot. There’s nothing I could do about it.”
What a drastic change it has been for both Foster and the Wildcats. At this time a week ago, Weber was so displeased with Foster that he benched him against Oklahoma State. Unhappy with his practice attitude and playing demeanor, Weber thought the team was better off without its leading scorer in the starting lineup.
Coach was trying to send player a message, and no one was sure if it was getting through when Foster pouted throughout a loss to the Cowboys. But the desired results appeared in a victory over TCU in which Foster scored 23 points.
He built on that against the Sooners, returning to the starting five after two games as a reserve.
His improved attitude and play quickly spread throughout the team, like medicine overtaking a cold. That much was obvious by looking at K-State’s bench. Everyone, from Weber down to the walk-ons, was enthused, cheering shots and rising to their feet after stops.
“I tried to sell it, that we are coming here to win and we are going to have a chance,” Weber said. “Maybe they believed me. They were much more focused and our defense was pretty good. they are one of the best offensive teams in the country.”
Foster noticed the change immediately.
“We are more energetic now,” Foster said. “Guys were dreading going to practice, but now we are energetic about practice. We are in the gym pushing each other. That is how we change in a week. You’ve just got to change everything.”
Another player that made a big change: Stephen Hurt.
The junior forward came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points and grab eight rebounds. He made jumper after jumper when K-State needed him to, with starting forward Thomas Gipson playing through foul trouble.
“It felt good to help the team get a good road win,” Hurt said. “We struggled on the road last season, so coming out here and getting a solid road win against a good team is a real good feeling.”
A good feeling that won’t easily fade.
“It was just all about timing for us,” Foster said. “We always knew we could play. We played against Arizona, a team that is going to be in the Final Four, most likely. It was just about figuring it out and mashing it together.”