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Game Recap - Kansas State 73, Savannah State 53

After some interesting substitution patterns and yet another relatively uninspired first half, the Cats pull away for a 20-point victory.

Is Nino the one to put the team on his back?
Is Nino the one to put the team on his back?
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats (6-4) shook off a foul-plagued and uninspired first half, and put the hammer down in the second stanza as they took care of the Savannah State Tigers (3-8), 73-53 in Bramlage Coliseum.

The obvious: It's a win, and we need to keep getting those. Of the "big program" teams Savannah has played, this was the closest margin of defeat (previous was a 31-point loss to Miami FL), and the only time they've broken the 50 point barrier. Let's not beat around the bush - Savannah State is not a good team at all. We shouldn't be comfortable with a 20-point win, especially with not being able to truly create separation in the first half. We'll talk more about first half issues later.

It was also another good performance by senior Nino Williams, who just might be emerging as this team's figurehead.

The Wildcats came out in the first half and immediately ran a successful backdoor alley-oop play from Marcus Foster to Justin Edwards, then the wheels came off for most of the regulars on the team. Thomas Gipson picked up two quick fouls in the first two minutes. Wesley Iwundu picked up two quick fouls off the bench. Justin Edwards picked up two fouls before the second media timeout, as well. To be fair, the referees were calling the game very tightly off the ball, which led to Gip's fouls, and just about every block/charge call went in favor of the defense, causing one each for Iwundu and Edwards. After Jevon Thomas made a lazy turnover taking his eye of the ball before the first media timeout, Bruce had seen enough.

Brandon Bolden and Brian Rohleder were officially in the game. The reason for their appearance was twofold - foul trouble was mounting, and frankly, Bruce needed to get some guys in the game that were actually going to try. What proceeded was Brandon Bolden coming up with a couple buckets and some shotblocking on the interior, and Rohleder did his best Will Spradling mimic, drawing three (!) charges in two minutes. Rohleder further earned his playing time today, deflecting numerous other passes and not allowing himself to be an offensive liability.

Defensively...hrm. What I'm noticing is that against quicker guards, our backcourt is pretty slow laterally. This allows dribble penetration much more frequently, and tonight was no different. Combine that with the fact that Gip sat the bench for most of the first half, and the Tigers got to the rim with their guards more than we should see.

Coming out in the second half, K-State was absolutely on fire, but that inability to stop dribble penetration from the perimeter kept Savannah in the game longer than it should have. The foul trouble in the first half didn't carry over to the second, so we saw decent minutes from Edwards, Gipson and Iwundu in the second.

Stats, STAT:

As mentioned, the Wildcats came out on a tear in the second half. K-State knocked down shots at a 70.0% clip (14-20), including 60.0% from behind the arc (3-5), and went 12-18 from the line (66.7%). K-State also outrebounded Savannah 19-8 in the second half. Also worthy of note for the team: 19 assists on 24 buckets. That's moving the ball and finding open players.

Player Of The Game: Nino Williams

Nino had himself a game. He brought it consistently in both halves, finishing the first half with 10pts, 3reb, and added another 10 and 4 for a team-leading 20 points (tying a career high) and 7 rebounds. Worth mentioning is how efficient Nino was, going 6-8 from the floor and 8-8 from the charity stripe.

Bruce Weber on Nino:

Nino has been very consistent. He has been our best player. He is always happy, comes to practice, and plays with great energy. He has been banged up a little bit, but every day he gives his all. I could not be happier for him.

Foster didn't do much in the first half - 3 points on 1-5 shooting - but came out and competed in the second half, finishing with 13 points and 7 assists, the second-most in his career (assisted 10 times in a game against Baylor last season).

Gip, riding the pine for 18 minutes in the first half because of those two quick fouls, was able to take advantage of an undersized Savannah State team in the second, finishing with 10 points on 3-3 FG, 4-7 FT.

Nigel Johnson and Edwards both contributed 9 points each (Nigel with 4ast/0to, and Edwards with 4reb), and JT finished with 7 points, but had an upside down night distributing the ball, going for 2 assists and 4 turnovers.

Looking at the extended minutes for Bolden and Rohleder: Bolden finished with 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 16 minutes, and Brian finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds and an assist in the same amount of time.

On the other side of the ball, Savannah State's Terel Hall had a solid evening, finishing with 17 points and 4 steals.

Big Thoughts:

1. On-Ball defense appears as it will be an issue the entire season.

Noted previously, our guards are not quick enough laterally do stop dribble drives, and our bigs don't rotate quickly enough. This is creating way too many inside, easy opportunities for our opponents. If the likes of UMKC, Bradley, Savannah State can get into the paint that quickly against our defense, what do you think teams like Iowa State, Oklahoma, and (gasp) Kansas -all teams with exceptional guards - are going to be able to do? This is a serious problem that needs to get figured out in the next three games. We are currently sub-250 in both 3PFG% and 2PFG%.

2. First half effort needs to improve.

This is just a broken record at this point in the season. Bruce even noted in his brief postgame interview with Stan Weber: we can't fall behind early in the game against Big 12 opponents, because they'll have the firepower to keep us from coming back. SOMETHING has to get figured out. At this rate, it'll cost us more than a couple games down the stretch. Foster needs to figure how to get 10+ in the first 20 minutes, Gip needs to be able to stay on the floor for 30-33 minutes a game, and goodness, Wes just needs to show up once.

3. Use finals week for some rest and recuperation; it gets tougher from here.

We've got a week off, then take on what looks like will be a bubble team in Texas A&M in a semi-neutral Kansas City game. With Stephen Hurt sitting for the second game in a row (groin), and Jevon Thomas starting to wear down a bit (based on Weber's commentary in postgame), we need to take advantage of the week off to heal up. I'm looking for us to come out with a lot of energy against A&M - I think the guys will also know it's a chance for us to build on the right side of the bubble argument.

Next Up:

#EMAW hosts "The Wildcat Classic", traveling to the Sprint Center in Kansas City to take on the Texas A&M Aggies next Saturday, December 20.