Coming out of the gate with an alley-oop to freshman Dean Wade from Wesley Iwundu, the Cats jumped out to a quick lead, but missed jumpers by K-State combined with a couple of outside shots from UMES's senior standout Devin Martin put the Hawks in the lead early. After the first media timeout, DJ Johnson made his first appearance in 16 months, and keyed an 8-0 run with some great work in the paint and a weakside blocked shot. K-State surged to a 13-9 lead, and never looked back.
Missed jumpers were a common theme in the game, with K-State making only ONE field goal outside of five feet in the first half - a three-pointer on the last possession of the first half by Justin Edwards. That, combined with sub-standard foul shooting, allowed UMES to stay within shouting distance; the Cats held a 35-21 advantage at the half mainly due to great defense, solid rebounding on both ends of the floor, and a focus on getting the ball to the rim on offense.
Coming out in the second half, UMES was able to trade punches with K-State up to the under-8 timeout. Coming out of that media break, the Cats ripped off a 14-3 run, including two three's by Barry Brown, to open the gap up to 24 points and put the Hawks away, punctuated by runout dunks by Iwundu and Edwards. At the under-4 timeout, most of the starters could take the rest of the night off, and both teams basically ran the clock out for the final 80-53 spread.
The Cats started with the predicted Stokes/Edwards/Iwundu/Wade/Hurt lineup, but Barry Brown and DJ Johnson both had huge contributions off the bench.
23 & 10.
Wesley Iwundu had the best game of his K-State career, finishing with a double-double, notching 23 points and snaring 10 boards, while contributing 4 assists, picking off three steals, shooting 7 of 13 from the floor and 9 of 14 from the charity stripe.
DJ Johnson - noticeably absent from the floor since the NCAA Tourney game against Kentucky in 2013, made his first appearance of this season. After only compiling 5 practices leading up to the game, DJ saw the floor for 13 very important minutes. Think he'll have an impact? He keyed the 8-0 run to put K-State ahead for good, and came up with 5pts, 6reb, 2stl and 1blk in those 14 minutes.
Anyone paying attention to the quickie-caps from the exhibition season knows I've been lamenting our rebounding, especially on the defensive end. So, consider me surprised when we outrebounded the Hawks by 11, 44-33. Of note, UMES was 38th in the country in OR% last year, and we held them to 7 offensive rebounds on 33 missed shots. What's probably more important is that rebounding was much more fundamental this game - people were blocking out, then going and getting the ball; as opposed to purely relying on athleticism to rebound. Putting your butt on someone is clearly more effective.
Player Of The Game: Wesley Iwundu
Iwundu, as mentioned above, had the best game of his career. Clearly in control the entire game, Wes probably could have gone for 30+ if he really wanted to. Wes was aggressive, he was comfortable, and he was just out there playing ball. A dynamite start for his junior season, and exactly the on-court leadership this team will lean on. He almost posted a double-double in the first half alone, putting up 9 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the first stanza.
Tigger Of The Game: Barry Brown
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.
DJ Johnson's block and Justin Edwards' assisted dunk were both candidates, but the overall play of Barry Brown earns him the nod. Brown came in off the bench, and only put up 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and no turnovers in 23 minutes of action, and got a dunk of his own off of one of the steals. Heck of a way to kick off your collegiate career.
Other Notable Performances
Justin Edwards picked up 17 points, 6 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists in 29 minutes.
Dean Wade posted 8 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal in 21 minutes, which is the most court-time he's seen all season.
The Hawks Devin Martin - a third-team All-MEAC guard and outstanding outside shooter - led UMES with 18 points (4-6 from beyond the arc) and 5 rebounds. First-team All-MEAC post Dominique Elliott was kept in check, with only 5 points and 6 boards in 16 minutes due to foul trouble.
1. Despite the shooting woes, that was a solid performance across the board.
Sure, 5-23 from beyond the arc isn't very good. Frankly, it sucks. But, and it's a BIG but, the defensive effort was something the guys should be proud of. Holding a great outside shooting team to under 30% FG (23.8% 3PFG), forcing 22 turnovers versus 6 assists, and allowing only 7 offensive rebounds was a defensive fingerprint that was conspicuously missing all year last year. Offensively, the Cats found and took great shots all night. Very few forced shots...but some nights, they just don't fall. Last year, the team would have folded and pouted all night. These guys realized shots weren't falling, and while they didn't stop shooting - gotta keep trying - they crashed the offensive glass (17 offensive boards) and started finding their way to the rim with the ball.
2. The players are adapting to the officiating.
For all the worry with how the game would be officiated, and how that would affect our players, they've adapted very well. UMES spent their entire night in foul trouble, but we were able to navigate our way through it. At the end of the game, the team only committed 23 fouls - not a ridiculous number in any circumstance - and had only four players with three or more. Solid defense, good rebounding, and limiting fouls committed? Sign me up.
3. This team is drastically different from last year's chaotic mess.
The enthusiasm, teamwork and basketball IQ - all the "intangibles" - that were nowhere to be found last year, may very well be the best thing this version has going for it. Everybody's out there having fun. They're comfortable. They're working together. We've got guards that understand how to take care of the ball. We've got a frontcourt that knows how to find open spots in the paint. We've got players that are willing to buckle down on defense and get the ball back. We've got guys that are playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. They're not going to win every game, but they're going to win games, and they're playing hard.
#EMAW hosts a drastically different style of team in the Ivy League's Columbia Lions in the Octagon on Monday, November 16.