If Stephen Hurt continues to play the way he did Saturday, Kansas State will take its chances in its final four games of the regular season.
Hurt, a senior forward, gave the Wildcats a big lift off the bench during a 72-63 loss to Kansas, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. It wasn’t enough to help his team win, but he led a second-half charge that cut a 17-point deficit down to three. He did most of his damage from the three-point line, making all three of his attempts beyond the arc.
That spread out the Jayhawks’ defense and gave the Wildcats’ an extra dimension on offense they badly needed.
“I’m happy he came back and played with great energy, almost a double-double,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “His threes gave us a chance and got us back in the game.”
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Hurt hadn’t scored more than five points in his past four games. He was a starter in K-State’s first 24 games, but his dropoff in production earned him a spot on the bench.
Perhaps a game like this will help build confidence and improve his game.
“I had a good game,” Hurt said. “Definitely, anybody who makes a couple shots in a row is going to get a confidence boost. But it is more about doing whatever the team needs from me. I will do whatever it takes to get the win. We are close. We just need to make that final step and close out a game.”
K-State appeared in good shape to win late in the first half Saturday, leading Kansas 25-21 with 6:16 remaining, but the Jayhawks pulled away with a flurry of shots to take a 39-29 halftime lead. They extended that lead to as large as 52-35 with 15:03 remaining.
The Wildcats looked doomed, but Hurt led the comeback by making outside shots, grabbing rebounds and sending the ball to open teammates.
Junior forward D.J. Johnson was his tag-team partner. At one point, they combined to score 16 straight points for the Wildcats.
“With D.J. having his presence down low and me being able to shoot the ball it puts the other team in a bad situation,” Hurt said, “because if they double down on D.J. I am going to be wide open. If they close out hard on me, D.J. is going to be open. Pick or choose, either double D.J. and leave me open or play D.J. one-on-one. He is great down low.
“Like I said, it’s a bad situation for the other team.”
Kansas withstood K-State’s push led by Hurt and Johnson, but the Wildcats hope their big men will respond with similar play against Texas when they return to action on Monday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Weber expects another strong game from Hurt, blaming his slump on a knee injury he has moved past.
Hurt is now looking forward to the remainder of the season.
“The shots I made tonight were all regular shots,” Hurt said. “As long as I stick with my regular shooting form I am confident they are going to keep falling.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett