Marcus Smart spent much of the second half on the bench carrying four fouls, and Marcus Foster drained 17 for the Wildcats as for the second year in a row K-State upended the Oklahoma State Cowboys to open Big 12 play. Nino Williams sank 15, his second-straight career game against the Cowboys in Manhattan, and Thomas Gipson -- nearly invisible offensively for the first 34 minutes of the game -- came up huge in the final six minutes to finish with a double-double (10 points, 11 boards).
The game was nip-and-tuck throughout. Neither team ever led the game by any more than five points at any time, and each time that occured the leader got reeled back in quickly -- until the very end, when the Cats held on to the lead long enough to win the foul game.
Although he did hit a killer three in one of his rare extended excursions onto the floor, Shane Southwell was a non-factor; he drew two fouls before the first TV timeout, and spent the vast majority of the game on the bench. That three tied the game at 52 with 9:32 to play, closing off Oklahoma State's second five-point gap of the contest.
Jevon Thomas contributed in his now-usual manner, and provided some actual points besides. The freshman tallied eight points and a game-high five assists. As mentioned, Gipson was a non-entity on offense for 34 minutes. At that point, the big man had eight defensive rebounds, but not a single positive offensive stat other than first-half two free throws. Down the stretch, Gipson went off, dropping three critical layups, adding a couple of offensive boards, and finally draining a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left which gave the Cats a three point lead and, probably more importantly, induced Le'Bryan Nash to attempt an ill-conceived shot from the arc to try and tie the game. That led to Nino Williams making one of two to give the Cats a two-possession lead with only 14 seconds to go. Phil Forte drained a three after racing down the floor on the inbound, but Leyton Hammonds fouled Williams on the inbound, and Williams sank both charity tosses to basically ice the contest. A three-point attempt by Smart with one second left clanked off the front of the rim, and K-State had claimed a top-10 pelt.
Nash led all scorers with 20, while Markel Brown had 15 and Smart and Forte both had 14 for the Cowboys.
Other than relatively poor free throw shooting (69.4%) and the travails of Southwell and Gipson, there was almost nothing to complain about in this game as far as how the Wildcats played. K-State played with energy, crashed the boards effectively, and played pretty good defense.
Next up, the Cats will visit TCU on Tuesday for what should be a relatively easy tune-up for next Saturday's fateful journey to the hellhole that is Allen. But optimism abounds after today's quality victory.