Playing to the level of our competition seems to be an ongoing issue for this team, but they keep finding a way to win basketball games despite playing poorly on offense in the halfcourt. The Kansas State Wildcats (10-2) struggled to create separation through 30 minutes of play. Eventually, K-State's depth and athleticism wore down the Saint Louis Billikens (5-7), and the Cats stretched it out to a 28-point win, 75-47.
The first half was a story of generally apathetic half-court offense from both sides due to turnovers and weak ball movement. Many possessions for both teams were coming down to the final seconds of the shot clock. However, when either team was able to move the ball and hang on to it, they weren't shooting poorly, as both squads shot over 40% in the first half. A couple of late executed plays put K-State up 7 at the intermission, 35-28.
Saint Louis would cut the lead to as few as 6 at points in the second half, but K-State maintained control of the game throughout the final 20 minutes, keeping the lead around double-figures for the majority of it. As the Billikens started to wear down, their shot selection and accuracy started to wane. The Wildcats were able to take advantage of the missed shots and turnovers, get out and run a bit, and gain a little breathing room. Over the final 7:20 of the game, K-State put together a 25-7 run to close the game out and create a final spread that wasn't necessarily indicative of the flow of the game.
While offense is certainly (and knowingly) a challenge for this K-State team, defense isn't. Saint Louis is the third team this year the Wildcats have held under 50 points; the Wildcats held the Billikens to 33.3% FG, including 17.9% from behind the arc.
Second leading scorer and all-around good shooter Mike Crawford was held scoreless by the Wildcat defense, going 0-4 from the floor while committing 2 turnovers.
K-State put up an even-steven 50% from the floor, shooting 26 of 52. This includes an above-average 33% from behind the arc (5-15).
On the positive side of the assist/turnover ratio again, the Wildcats managed 15 assists with 14 turnovers.
Player Of The Game: Wesley Iwundu
Wes had a pretty solid game, playing 29 minutes and putting up 13 points on 6-8 shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Only criticisms surround the charity stripe (1-4 from the line) and a team-leading 3 turnovers. A dunk on a breakaway put the punctuation mark on the game for the Wildcats.
Tigger Of The Game: Justin Edwards
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.
Justin Edwards had a forgettable first half, but came out in the second with an exclamation mark baseline dunk on the first possession of the half, and was locked and loaded the rest of the way. Most of his 10 points, 6 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals came in the second stanza.
Other Notable Performances
Kamau Stokes was the third player in double figures for K-State, putting up 11 points on 3-4 shooting, 4-5 from the line, with 2 boards, 2 assists and a steal. Kam led the team with 30 minutes of court time.
The Big Fella put 7 points and 5 boards in the book, including a big three in the first half to keep K-State out front late in the half.
Dean Wade's 5 points and 5 boards weren't very efficient - Wade only hit 2 of 8 shots, and committed 4 fouls.
DJ Johnson put up 9 points on 3-4 shooting, but somehow played 16 minutes and did not gather a single rebound.
Saint Louis' Ash Yacoubou picked up 10 points on 4-11 shooting, and added 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
1. Stellar Defense.
33.3% shooting from the floor. 17.9% (5-28) from behind the arc. 19 turnovers to only 10 assists. 11 steals by K-State. 47 Points. The Wildcat defense was in the realm of three possessions short of perfect.
2. Better, but still not Stellar Offense.
Offensively, K-State looked absolutely lost and confused at times in the first 10 minutes. The second 10 minutes of the opening half looked a bit better, as the ball moved a little better, there was a more pointed effort in getting the ball into the paint, and it started to open up some other shots. In the second half, the Wildcat offense was able to find a few better shots, and became much more successful in getting the ball into the paint. With the offense keying on inside-out play, K-State was able to hit a couple more outside shots as well as use their size to an advantage on dribble penetration and post play. Not to be understated was the ability for K-State's defense to initiate the fast break, where the Wildcats were also able to get out and run more in the second half.
The ball still needs to move considerably more side to side, and transition needs to play a greater role still, but there was some improvement in general from the last couple of games.
3. Ready or not, here it comes...
Next up is the #19 West Virginia Mountaineers, as K-State kicks off the conference slate this Saturday. We're not where I would I would like to see us offensively, but the defense is going to keep us in ballgames more often than not. We just need to hit a couple of timely buckets to make some noise. Finishing the non-conference slate at 10-2 is, by many accounts, ahead of realistic expectations leading into the season; having losses only to UNC and on the road to Texas A&M are nothing to be ashamed of.
#EMAW returns to the coziness of the Octagon in 2016, taking on with Bob Huggins' West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday, January 2.