Kansas State (13-8, 2-6 Big 12) held on for a 69-64 win over the Ole Miss Rebels (13-8, 3-5 SEC) in the third game of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. That gives the good guys a 3-2 lead in the event, in which the home team has won all five games so far. Also, K-State is now 3-1 against the SEC this year, their only loss to Texas A&M at College Station.
The win was built on a 19-2 run in the middle of the second half, punctuated by Barry Brown missing the second of two free throws, getting his own rebound, and draining a three for a huge four-point play that blew the game open. But in the final few minutes, Ole Miss trimmed a 16-point Wildcat lead down to the final margin.
The biggest news of the game, however, was Kamau Stokes being helped off the court and loaded into a wheelchair in the tunnel. Stokes reached for his knee at the start of an Ole Miss possession, indicating to the bench that something was wrong. Forced to defend a shot, at the end of the play Stokes went down clutching said knee. We're not medical experts, but that has all the hallmarks of a minor tear exacerbated by the rush downcourt and attempt to cut. Collateral ligament, meniscus, something. We'll find out more later.
K-State was absolutely horrible at keeping their hands on the basketball. We were going to note that they got better in the second half, but three turnovers in the final two minutes brought the second half total equal with the first -- nine turnovers in each half. Ole Miss had 17, which means K-State won the game despite losing the turnover battle.
Until Dean Wade started clanging free throws in the final two minutes, K-State was shooting nearly 75% from the line. After Bruce Weber sat Wade and put Austin Budke back in, Ole Miss threw up the white flag and didn't foul in the final 90 seconds despite only trailing by 8. There's something disturbing about that.
That was the rebound margin, in K-State's favor. The Cats hauled down 26 boards on defense, which ain't too shabby.
Ole Miss drained 8 threes on 20 attempts, which is really the only reason they were in the game at all. They scored 15 more points than the Wildcats from beyond the arc, which more than offset K-State's 8-point advantage from the stripe; had K-State shot even 27% from downtown this would have been a 15-point win.
Blocked shots by Ole Miss. Not a one. The Cats had four.
Player Of The Game: D.J. Johnson
D.J. racked up 14 points and 7 rebounds, and perhaps most importantly logged 23 minutes. Only Justin Edwards and Wesley Iwundu were on the court for at least two minutes longer than D.J., which was huge (and will continue to be).
Tigger Of The Game: Austin Budke
Note: Since HC Bruce Weber noted there are "a lot of Tiggers on this team," we're going to find that player that had an high-flying offensive play, stonewall defensive play, or a notable performance, and call them out here.
When you're a bench player whose limitations are apparent and the television broadcasting crew keeps talking about what a great game you're having even though you've only scored four points, you're a shoo-in for this honor. Budke did the little things he has to do to be an effective part of the rotation: drew a few fouls, grabbed six boards, fed the ball (3 assists), made his free throws (2-2), and -- perhaps most importantly -- served as decent glue for the team after Stokes went down.
Other Notable Performances
Iwundu had 11 points and 6 boards, but of concern was his .60 assist-to-turnover ratio. Wes was responsible for 28% of K-State's turnovers all by himself. (Disconcertingly, Iwundu, Edwards, and Johnson combined for 13 of the 18 miscues on the day.)
Carlbe Ervin was forced into more action than usual with Stokes going down. Ervin had 7 points and 3 boards in 24 minutes; if he maintains that going forward the loss of Stokes won't hurt as bad as it felt like it would when Stokes was clutching his knee on the floor.
Stephen Hurt managed 10 points in only 16 minutes, a low figure considering he only had one foul.
Edwards joined the double-figures parade with 10 points.
1. Sloppy play's not going to cut it Saturday.
The turnovers were not only troubling, but wince-inducing. The vast majority were just awful passes and lost handles without any real defensive pressure forcing the issue. Worse, a rash of turnovers at the death allowed Ole Miss to get within striking range. That needs to be a point of emphasis this week.
2. Budke is improving. Fast.
He wasn't perfect, but it's probably worth noting that not only did he impress the television crew but there was not one point during the game when anyone expressed their exasperation with him in our game thread. That, my friends, is progress.
3. Get well, Kamau.
The Wildcats survived today, but can Ervin and Brown handle the increased workload an extended absence will require? Ervin was on point today, which was a good sign, but we're going to withhold judgement for now.
Wednesday night, it's the annual feline slaughter at Allen Field House at 8pm on ESPN. It will be a rough week in Wildcat land, as Saturday it's #1 Oklahoma.