George Washington was supposed to be maybe Kansas State's toughest test of the season, and for the first 5:30 minutes it looked like the Wildcats were in trouble. The Colonials were driving to the basket at will and getting layups, while Kansas State was struggling to hit jump shots, as they have all season.
Then Shane Southwell caught fire, Jevon Thomas provided a triple shot of energy on both sides of the ball, and everything changed. The 'Cats made GW look like Champion Baptist during a 20-0 run and never looked back in a dominating 72-55 win.
Southwell continued his hot shooting that started against Tulane and scored 12 of K-State's first 14 points as the 'Cats quickly erased a 15-6 lead. Much of the credit for that goes to freshman point guard Jevon Thomas, whose stats only tell half the story.
He dished out 5 assists and didn't commit a turnover in the first half, while GW's very capable point guard Joe McDonald scored 2 points and committed 5 turnovers without an assist. Thomas' pressure at the point of attack totally changed the Colonials' offense and all but eliminated the dribble-drive that allowed them to use their noticeable size advantage.
Thomas could have easily had more than his game-high 6 assists if K-State had better jump shooters, and maybe the best part of his play was how the rest of the team seemed to feed of his energy, even after he went back to the bench. Yes, Thomas had some ill-advised shots and didn't finish well near the basket, but his overall performance in nearly 30 (!) minutes was nothing short of spectacular for his second game with the team.
K-State's defense in the final 35 minutes continued what we've come to expect, best exemplified by the stat that 10 of 13 opponents have scored a season-low against the Wildcats this season. George Washington never found its rhythm again and seemed uncomfortable playing in front of a rather impressive Bramlage crowd for a game played on New Year's Eve.
Offensively, Thomas led some great ball movement and the 48% shooting from the field was nice, though it's important to point out the 33 3FG% and realize that will never be a strength of this team. Marcus Foster is still at his best when attacking the rim, and Southwell thrived because he took the right (read: WIDE OPEN) shots and chose wisely in attacking the basket.
The last 15 minutes of the 1st half have to be considered the best basketball K-State has played all season, and really, it could have been more similar in the 2nd half without so many stupid fouls and quick whistles. Either way, GW never really threatened to come back.
So here we are heading into 2014 with Kansas State basketball on an eight-game win streak and four wins against teams in the RPI top 80. This team really could compete with Oklahoma State in the Big 12 opener at Bramlage on Saturday, though I still have some concerns about the lack of a true road game with games at TCU and, of course, Kansas in the following week.