AMES, Iowa – One of these days, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber might trust his team to push the pace a little more.
Just not now.
The 22nd-ranked Wildcats rushed a few too many shots, had too many breakdowns on defense and lost to No. 16 Iowa State 81-75 on Saturday.
The Wildcats rallied from deficits of 12 and 11 points to tie the score in the second half, but never got the stop or basket they needed to take the lead and allowed a team to top 70 points for only the fourth time this season.
"When we move the basketball and move, we're a pretty good team," Weber said. "But we go 1-on-1 too much. Some of it's youth. Some of it you've got to put on my shoulders. We've got to do a better job of preparing them and making sure they move the basketball and get it to the right people at the right times."
Melvin Ejim scored 20 points to lead Iowa State (15-3, 3-3 Big 12), which regained its shooting touch in breaking a three-game losing streak.
Georges Niang had 18 points and freshman Matt Thomas matched a season high with 14 for the Cyclones, who blew a 12-point halftime lead, rebuilt the lead to 11, then hit another lull as the Wildcats (14-6, 4-3) rallied to tie the score at 66 with 5 minutes left.
Nineteen seconds later, though, Niang hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key after Ejim grabbed an offensive rebound and Iowa State led the rest of the way.
Weber felt the Wildcats too often got away from the controlled game they need to play.
"Just some quick shots, 1-on-1 shots, when we were a little impatient," he said. "We're too young. A year from now, maybe we can play a little quicker. But right now, we're a little young to put up those quick shots."
Still, Kansas State got within three points at the end, but Ejim blocked a potential game-tying 3 from Shane Southwell and hit two free throws to put the Cyclones ahead 79-73 with 23 seconds left.
Marcus Foster scored 20 points for Kansas State, which lost consecutive games for the first time since November.
Kansas State spent much of the afternoon allowing Iowa State to make a run and then matching it. In the end, the Wildcats were just a couple of plays short.
The Wildcats needed less than 7 minutes to erase a 46-34 first-half deficit.
"We've been in that situation before," Kansas State's Will Spradling said. "We were in that situation at (Kansas) and let it go the other way (in an 86-60 loss). We knew we weren't going to come out and let that happen again. Obviously, we didn't finish like we needed to, but we learned from the KU game."
The Wildcats then allowed nine straight points in what appeared to be a game-deciding run for the Cyclones.
But Iowa State's inconsistent defense hurt it again. The Cyclones allowed nine points in 2 minutes, the last in a flurry of three 3-pointers tied it at 66-all,
Niang answered with his 3, and Cyclones star DeAndre Kane shook off a sluggish game with a three-point play off a shot that banked high off the glass to put Iowa State ahead 72-66.
Kane finished with 10 points after shooting 3 of 12 for the second straight game.
This was the first time in the 216 meetings between Iowa State and Kansas State that both were ranked in the AP Top 25. But the Cyclones and Wildcats entered play looking to regain some lost momentum.
Iowa State had opened the season at 14-0, the best start in school history. But losses to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas had considerably cooled the program's national buzz and sent it tumbling eight spots in this week's poll.
Then last week, a district court judge ruled that reserve guard Bubu Palo be reinstated in a move that angered the administration and dominated local headlines.
Kansas State was coming off a buzzer-beating loss at Texas, as Jonathan Holmes hit a 3 as time expired for a 67-64 Longhorns' win on Tuesday.
Southwell had 14 points for Kansas State and Spradling added 12. But Thomas Gipson, who had scored 20 and 24 points in the two previous games, managed only four on 2-for-7 shooting.
"You've got to give credit to them. They double-teamed him," Weber said. "But I thought he was very impatient. He should have posted deeper."