The Kansas State Wildcats (12-8, 5-2 Big 12) did not squander the opportunity to avenge their conference opener loss, taking down the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 63-53, in Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday morning.
K-State took a 6-0 lead out of the gate, which involved a bucket (with many more to come) from Nino Williams, a missed Phil Forte III jumper, a technical foul by Travis Ford, two made free throws from Marcus Foster (for the technical), and a driving layup from Wesley Iwundu. Finally, a steal by Jevon Thomas out top against Anthony Hickey led OSU to call a timeout only 75 seconds into the game.
Clearly, one team was ready to play - and we can all be satisfied it was our guys in white and purple.
The Cats continued their dominance throughout the first half, stretching their lead to as many as 14 late in the half, and after a couple of good plays by Oklahoma State, ended the half up 10, 31-21. The theme of the game in the first half was K-State's ability to defend (which was superlative on this day), their ability to move the ball on offense to find good shots without turnovers, and Nino Williams going 6-of-6 from the field...and I don't think he even drew iron on any of those shots, either.
Coming out in the second half, the Wildcats were able to find their groove again, and kept their defensive pressure up right off the bat. However, Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte are legit basketball players - jokes about height challenges and flat hairy feet aside in the case of Forte - and they settled down and found their groove. Nash and Forte finished the first half with 2 and 7 points, respectively; they found their way back to normalcy in the second half, and ended with 12 and 22. Offensively, K-State appeared to slow and stand around a bit more, though the score and stats indicate otherwise. The Pokes managed to close the gap to as few as seven, but the Cats gave them the stiff-arm and ended up with the 10-point victory.
On a side note, the Octagon of Doom was "Striped Out" for Coaches vs. Cancer, with free teeshirts given to all attendees, white and purple alternating with seating section. It was pretty sweet, and if someone has a purple one they'd want to send me, send me a tweet (@TheBigE_BOTC) and let me know. Love that shirt.
I'll admit: I like being right...
Last time we played OSU, they mustered four double-digit scorers: Forte (20), Nash (11), Hickey (10), and Newberry (10). Forte and Nash will find a way to get theirs. We need to do a better job limiting their role players and make sure THEY don't beat us.
At the same time, we're not going to pick up a win with some two-of-three combo of Foster, Gip and Nino. We need to get solid contributions from Wes and Justin Edwards (especially on the glass), possibly a decent game from Stephen Hurt, and have Jevon Thomas not be a complete basketcase out there.
As noted, Nash and Forte ended up getting theirs, and almost right on their combined season average. No one else beat us, with only Michael Cobbins mustering more than three points (he finished with 7). At the same time, we got a great game from Nino, a good game from Foster, and a solid effort from Thomas Gipson. And role players? Justin Edwards played arguably the best game of his career as a Wildcat.
On the other hand, I also like being wrong, if in the proper context...
Nino will have a hard time with much other than loose ball putbacks against them.
Samsonite! I was WAAAAY off!
Kansas State University - yes, the same Wildcats you and I both root for - committed ONE TURNOVER in the first half, an errant pass by Jevon Thomas. That was a huge key in us being able to get out to that double-digit lead in the front 20 minutes.
And...these very same Wildcats have somehow learned to shoot free throws, continuing a trend of better-if-not-good shooting from the stripe, connecting on 13-16 for the game.
K-State was solid in finding good shots and making those shots, especially inside the arc. The Cats finished with an effective-FG% of 64.3%, against an Oklahoma State team that, defensively, is top-50 in the country, holding their opponents to 44.7% eFG. This includes an insane 75% FG (12-16) in the second half from the Purple.
Ball movement, sharing the basketball, and offensive execution led the Cats to an assist on 16 of their 26 made field goals.
K-State Player Of The Game: Nino Willams
Don't leave Nino open 12 feet from the bucket. He's gonna make it.
Nino hit the opening bucket of the game - a 10 footer from the left baseline - and didn't look back. He continued to work the mid-range against both the man and 2-3 zone Oklahoma State played. At half, he was nothing but net, connecting on all 6 of his attempted FGs. Nino also came out in the second and nailed K-State's first two shots, stretching to 8-of-8. Though he would eventually cool off, Nino finished with a team-high 20 points on 10-13 shooting, and (let's see here...oh, yeah) added 7 rebounds in a team-high 32 minutes. The game is his third 20-point output of the season.
Nino (Williams) got us going with his shot. His shot has been magical. I told him the first one, I do not even think he even looked at the hoop. He just caught it and shot. He had 20 and 7 (rebounds) after 22 and 8 the other day and had a great effort leading us on the Play-Hard chart... - Head Coach Bruce Weber, postgame
Other Player Notes
Justin Edwards came off the bench and played the best game I've seen from him in a K-State uniform. Edwards connected on all of his FG attempts (4-4 FG, including 2-2 3PFG), and 4-5 from the line, for 14 points. He also compiled 3 reb, 3 ast, and 3 stl in 28 minutes of relief for Foster and Iwundu.
Marcus Foster didn't blow the top off the gym in the scoring column, but had a great all-around game. Foster went 4-4 inside the arc, 0-5 from deep, and 6-6 from the line for 14 points, but also added 5 assists. I would gladly trade 25 points and no assists for this for 14 points and accounting for five more buckets. It's a team game.
I'll also give Gip a shout-out, going for 6 pts, 6 reb against a team that blocks shots inside pretty effectively. Gip came up with some big rebounds at key points, and finished with dunks on two consecutive plays late in the second half that kept the Pokes at bay.
On the Oklahoma State side of the box score, we already talked about Nash and Forte scoring outputs for the game. Outside of that, Michael Cobbins went for 7 pts, 4 rebs. K-State did a fantastic job of keeping the Cowboys from piecing together anything noteworthy.
1. We held up our end of the bargain on the 3 Keys to the Game.
In the Game Preview, I noted we need to 1.) Keep up the effort we've seen lately, 2.) Continue to improve offensive efficiency, and 3.) Have our role players outplay theirs.
Yup. Especially the offensive efficiency one:
My suggested stat line for victory: 16 assists, 12 turnovers, 45% FG, 75% FT.
Our actual stat line in the win: 16 assists, 10 turnovers, 57.1% FG, 81.3% FT.
2. As close to a complete game as we're gonna probably get.
By and large, that was a complete game. Sure, we uglied it up a bit by taking some air out of the ball on offense, but most of that was deliberate execution of the offense. That's OK. We had sections of sloppiness, but nothing that was too lasting. Offensively, we were very efficient. Defensively, we were mostly great. We rebounded the ball well, save for one particular possession where the Cowboys garnered half of their 4 offensive boards. Looked at as a whole, there was nothing in that game that was particularly concerning, with the only exception being the Jevon Thomas freak-out when OSU threw a bit of a 3/4-court press on us and we weren't ready for it.
3. Taking Care of Business.
Man, the Big 12 is tough. I mean, really tough. I know Texas Tech isn't that good, comparatively speaking. But Iowa State just went into Lubbock and dropped one to the Red Raiders. TCU - yes, the TCU that also isn't very good - got jobbed out of a win in Morgantown against a ranked West Virginia squad. And Texas, well, they Texas'd in a home game against KU, who is once again atop the Big 12 standings.
We're currently sitting in solo 2nd in the Big 12 at 5-2, a half-game behind KU and a half-game up on Iowa State and West Virginia. We knew coming into the game that we should be able to deal with OSU at home, and we did. We need to Keep Sawing Wood (TM...or it should be anyway), as the climb starts to get steeper. Win home games, win roadies at TTU and TCU, and maybe steal one in Waco and we'll be in fine shape at the end of the season. We can talk about the non-conference issues, but if we can compile that conference record...no one sane would complain.
#EMAW continues their homestand with (18/17) West Virginia coming into the Octagon of Doom on Tuesday, January 27.