MANHATTAN, Kan.— Jamar Samuels was surprised when Frank Martin's wife, Anya, slid up next to him before Kansas State's game against Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Samuels was expecting his mother, Ernestine, to walk him onto the court on Senior Day. But her flight had been delayed, and she was stuck on the interstate, so Martin gave his wife a quick call and told her to pinch-hit until Samuels' family arrived.
They missed the pregame introductions. They saw most of his phenomenal performance.
Samuels finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds — committing just one turnover without a foul — and led the Wildcats to a 77-58 win over the shorthanded Cowboys.
“Not rattled, I was just like, sigh,” Samuels said. “When she said she'll be here soon as she can, I said all right. And the second half came and I saw her here, I got a little excited.”
By then the Wildcats were well on their way to victory.
Rodney McGruder finished with 24 points and Jordan Henriquez had 16 points and eight boards for Kansas State (21-9, 10-8 Big 12), which added another impressive win to its NCAA resume going into next week's Big 12 tournament.
Kansas State has won four of its last five games, including back-to-back road wins against Top 10 teams Missouri and Baylor, and has four victories over teams in the RPI Top 25.
“We have two objectives,” Martin said before tacking on a third. “To go win the Big 12, to go to the NCAA tournament and get a good seed, and then to make a run.”
Keiton Page hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points for the Cowboys (14-17, 7-11), who played without star freshman Le'Bryan Nash for the third straight game because of a fractured left hand. It's unclear whether he'll be able to play in the conference tournament.
They also lost Philip Jurick, their second-leading rebounder, to an apparent right foot injury early in the game. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said he's out indefinitely.
Marek Soucek and Michael Cobbins fouled out in the second half.
“We hung in there at the beginning, doing some things we wanted to do to stay in the game the first half,” Ford said. “We got in some serious foul trouble, and then losing one of our players — we're not real deep to begin with — we had to improvise a bit.”
Page's hot shooting from beyond the arc — he hit a trio of 3-pointers in less than 2 minutes early in the game — allowed the Cowboys to stay within 40-33 at the break.
That's when McGruder really caught fire.
He followed a basket by Samuels with a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half, then added another 3 on his next trip down court. It was the start of a 14-0 run by the Wildcats that turned a four-point lead into a 54-36 advantage.
“Rodney has been engaged, outside about a two-week period, for the whole conference season,” Martin said.
Cezar Guerrero finally slowed down the onslaught with a pair of buckets for Oklahoma State, but Henriquez answered with a strong finish. McGruder added another jumper, and Henriquez dunked off a feed from Angel Rodriguez for a 60-42 lead with 11:20 left.
Kansas State put it on the cruise control the final 10 minutes, allowing Martin to empty much of his bench in the Wildcats' home finale — and give Samuels and fellow senior Victor Ojeleye a curtain call in the closing minutes.
“It was just an honor,” said Ojeleye, who made his only field-goal attempt in his first career start. “An honor to be out there and be part of what we're doing, a different perspective out there. Whatever I could do to put it into words couldn't do it justice.”
The Wildcats, who snapped an 11-game losing streak at Gallagher-Iba Arena earlier this year, finished off a sweep of Oklahoma State for the first time since 1988. The Cowboys had won five of the last seven meetings at Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas State had already secured a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, where it will be seeded fourth or sixth, depending on the result of other games this weekend.
The Cowboys, who have lost three of four, will be the seventh seed in Kansas City. They'll face No. 10 seed Texas Tech on Wednesday night.
“It's just the end of the regular season, but it's also a stepping stone for us,” Ojeleye said. “Every day it's a new opportunity, and I think a positive experience like this — going out and playing well and also seeing some things to improve on — that's really important.”