K-State came into Saturday's matchup with Gonzaga a big underdog. Ken Pomeroy pegged K-State's chances at 27 percent.
The Bulldogs averaged 1.18 points per possession coming into this game, third in the nation. But K-State has been impressive on defense this season, limiting its opponents to 0.94 points per possession, which is 18th nationally. As BOTC's Ahearn Alley wrote before the game, if K-State was going to win this one, the Wildcats would have to win ugly.
He was right. Despite hitting fewer than 30 percent of its three-point attempts, and less than 50 percent of field goal attempts, K-State beat Gonzaga, 72-62. By my admittedly quick calculation -- while trying to keep a 14-month old kid occupied -- K-State held Gonzaga below 60 possession in this game, well below their season average of 68.
In other words, K-State forced Gonzaga to play its game, was efficient with its possession (1.18 points per possession), and that was enough to get its best win of the season.
K-State jumped to 29-24 halftime lead helped by holding Gonzaga star Kevin Pangos scoreless in the first half. After the intermission, Southwell score four straight to start the second half and push K-State's lead to nine. Marcus Foster also scored five straight shortly after the half, off a made three pointer and a layup when he stole the ensuing inbounds pass.
Foster also had the highlight of the day when he posterized Gonzaga guard David Stockton on a breakaway dunk to extend K-State's lead. But Gonzaga promptly went on a 10-2 run to get it back to a one-possession game. For about five minutes through the middle of the second half, the teams traded buckets and a one-point lead.
K-State built a six-point lead just after under-eight media timeout and maintained a two-possession lead for the next three minutes. Gonzaga called timeout with 4:44 remaining and a chance to cut it to one-possession game. But the Zags couldn't do anything out of the timeout and were called for a shot-clock violation when Will Spradling knocked the ball away from Pangos as the 35-second clock expired. On K-State's next possession, Thomas Gipson scored to give the Wildcats a six-point lead.
By this point, Gonzaga was mired in the middle of a long scoreless drought. After a Przemek Karnowski dunk with 6:11 remaining, Gonzaga would not score again until there were only 48 seconds remaining. By that point, K-State had put the game out of reach.
While this win doesn't wash away the opening disaster against Northern Colorado, the utter failure to show up in Puerto Rico, and the near escape against a bad South Dakota team, it's a significant piece to build on as K-State gets ready for Big 12 Conference play, which begins when Oklahoma State visits Manhattan on January 4th. K-State's next action is this Saturday, December 28th, when the Wildcats will
be host travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., to face the Tulane Green Wave at the Barclays Center. Tipoff is 4:00 p.m. CST.