First of all - apologies for the brevity in the recap that follows (and the next two days). Other games will have a much more in-depth synopsis, but surfing and mai tais and stuff. I'll probably describe it more later, but wow, this is a fun atmosphere. It's a big high school gym. You KNOW the refs can hear you ;).
Kansas State (3-1) picked up what should be a good win by the end of the year, outlasting the Purdue Boilermakers (3-1) 88-79 in the first game of the 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Question marks surrounded both teams coming into the game: K-State - where did their team go against LBSU on Friday?, and Purdue - are they really any good? What we found was that the Wildcats were the better team, even with Purdue throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them.
Stars Playing Like Stars:
Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson both keyed this team to victory in the second half, through a stretch of turnovers and Purdue pouring in some tough threes. Big Gip spurred the Cats in the second half with a stretch that included a monster blocked shot that dang near landed in the Pacific Ocean, a step-back 12-footer against 7-2 big man Isaac Haas, and a thunderous drop-step dunk. While Gip was limited in minutes because of first-half foul trouble, he played more in the second half (after Stephen Hurt picked up his fourth foul). Gip's stats don't show just how important he was (9 pts, 0 reb), but his banging on big men Haas and A.J. Hammons allowed for Iwundu, Nino, and others to get in there and grab boards.
Foster had the bounce-back game I expected. Though he forced a couple of shots early, he found an open three early in the first half, then continued to pour in buckets, finishing with 24 pts on 9-14 shooting (5-8 3pfg), 3 reb, and 2 ast.
Playing With "Want To":
The whole team played like they wanted to be there. Didn't see much lack of effort, and saw a good level of enthusiasm out of everyone. All 11 scholarship players saw the floor, and even though Brandon Bolden had some poor decisions and execution, that seemed to be more of a comfort issue than anything (not seeing the floor in the past two contests). Solid contributions all around, and four double-digit scorers, including Foster, Hurt (11 pts, 5 reb), Wesley Iwundu (10 pts, 7 reb) and Nino (10 pts, 2 reb).
Here's the deal. We won. Frankly, the score was closer than the game actually was. They made some ridiculous threes in both halves (Kendall Stephens...fire away, big guy), and got away with, oh, conservatively 15 to 20 traveling violations. That being said, our defense completely disappeared (for the most part) in the last several minutes of the game, and our offense was well-intended against the zone, but wasn't run nearly quick enough. It was too step-by-step, and not fluid or motion-like. As such, there was a lot of standing around by the offside, running basically 3-on-3 on half the floor. When we did move more, we found some great passing lanes and open shots.
We'll be playing the winner of the #2 Arizona vs. Mizzou game being played immediately after our game. Next contest will be at 2:30 p.m. local, 6:30 p.m. in Manhattan, on ESPN.