The Kansas State Wildcats (4-3) ultimately took care of business against a quick-but-undersized Omaha Mavericks (3-3) team at Bramlage, a quick home contest before heading back out on the road this coming weekend. K-State struggled to find a rhythm and any semblance of defense early in the first half, but kept hanging around through early efforts by Nino Williams - the senior's first home game this year (injury) - and Jevon Thomas distributing the ball. The Cats looked sloppy and jet-lagged from their trip to Hawai'i, and were defensively slow in on-ball defense, and late in rotation to the Mavericks continued rim-homing drives.
K-State came out in the second half and asserted their will right out of the gate, forcing a couple of quick Maverick turnovers and stretching the lead from the 6-point halftime spread to more than 10 points. The defensive effort was ratcheted up a couple notches, limiting UNO to 17 points below their season average of 83, and kept their shooting to under 44% from the floor, and under 30% from three. Offensively, the Cats looked to find easier buckets throughout the second, and it showed with 23 assists in the game, and only 4 turnovers in the second half (versus their first half 9 turnovers).
Things got a little chippy late, with a minor dustup between Jevon Thomas and UNO's Mike Rostampour, which earned both JT and Tim Smallwood a double-technical. As the second half unfolded, the only defense UNO had that was successful was putting the Cats at the line; Rostampour, Marcus Tyus and Tre'Shawn Thurman all fouled out of the contest.
UNO's CJ Carter had a good night, finishing with 22 points on 9-15 shooting from the floor (7-8 inside the arc). Rostampour and Thurman finished with 7 and 9 rebounds, respectively - no one else had more than one for UNO.
On the Purple side, Nino finished one short of a career high, with 19 points on 8-11 shooting, and chipped in 4 boards and 3 assists. JT amassed a career-high scoring the ball with 12 points on 4-5 shooting, including 2-3 from behind the arc. Marcus Foster was steady with 16 points and added a season-high 7 rebounds. Justin Edwards saw extended minutes tonight, and finished with 9 points and 6 boards. Nigel Johnson and JT combined for 12 assists to only 2 turnovers, and we windexed the glass, outrebounding UNO 43-25. Not to go unmentioned: Malek Harris and Stephen Hurt also saw the floor quite a bit, and helped that rebounding metric with 6 and 7 boards respectively.
K-State shot 53.3% from the floor, including 42.9% from three...but managed a dismal 45.8% from the line (11-24).
1. Playing All 40...Would Be Nice
We're seven games into the season. 280 minutes of basketball. I don't think we've played 40 consecutive minutes of basketball to our capabilities. The loss against Arizona was close, but ultimately, ended up to be about 37.5 minutes of good, and 180 seconds of pure emptiness. Taking on Tennessee on Saturday, in Knoxville, as part of the SEC-Big12 Challenge, will require 40 minutes of focus, effort, and execution.
2. Attitude Correction
A couple of attitudes stood out to me that need some fixing. First, the jawing that JT does throughout the game is good to a point. When it boils over into what it did against Rostampour this evening, or a couple of times we've seen earlier this season, it becomes counterproductive. He's going to develop a reputation for it, and get a shorter and shorter leash.
More importantly, though, is the petty shoving matches that Thomas Gipson gets into. There are nights when he's an absolute hoss, and a legit All-Big12 player. Then there are nights like tonight, where he's just soft. Physically and mentally soft. Big Gip needs to be locked in and focused - an absolute rock - every single night. Let's see how this develops moving forward, because he needs to be a senior leader every time he takes the floor for us to have a successful season.
3. Watching It Click
One thing we did see tonight was that, with about 5 minutes left in the first half, something happened. It suddently clicked. We started playing like we knew we were better, but had to actually play to prove it. Effort ramped up. Execution ramped up. The Cats were able to take on both the man-to-man and the 3-2 zone defense UNO threw at us, and were able to find some easy buckets. Our offense was much more fluid, and did a better job creating the open man, then finding the open man.
We started protecting the basket on the defensive end, and pressured the ball much better. Rotated quicker. Blocked out and grabbed boards. We saw a mediocre start begin to morph into a performance that frankly, we should be able to expect as the season goes along. Being able to see us really grab the game and step on the gas in the second half was encouraging and a positive thing to take to Knoxville.
K-State travels to Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville to take on Tennessee on Saturday, December 6. The game is part of the annual SEC-Big12 Challenge.
I've also been informed that "Taco Cat" is spelled the same forward and backward. So there's that.
And as I sit here typing this, #5 Louisville vs #14 Ohio State is on TV. If you purposefully foul someone that doesn't have the ball, and isn't making a basketball play (i.e. cutting, etc.), it's an intentional foul. Period. Two shots and the ball. /rantover