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K-State Hoops Recap - K-State 68, Georgia 66

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The Wildcats claw their way back to grab a top-100 true road win over the Bulldogs.

The Baby-Faced Assassin.
The Baby-Faced Assassin.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We havin' fun yet? The Kansas State Wildcats (6-1) traveled to Athens, Georgia to avenge last year's loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, a 50-46 wrestling affair in Bramlage. Behind the second-half leadership of Wesley Iwundu, Justin Edwards and the baby-faced assassin Dean Wade, the Cats made off like bandits, knocking off UGA 68-66.

The first half was all Georgia, and K-State did what they needed to in order to at least keep it within sight. Georgia got a hot start across the board - especially behind Kenny Gaines's outside shooting - running out to a seven point lead in the first 2:11. Collectively, the Wildcats looked absolutely lost on defense, allowing dribble penetration, open (or lightly contested) threes, and were not doing a great job of securing the rebound when there actually was one. On the other end of the floor, the Cats were perfectly content to swing the ball around the perimeter and take a quasi-guarded long distance jumper; Justin Edwards was the only one that seemed intent on getting the ball into the paint. Kamau Stokes hit a couple threes in the first half, supplemented by a couple of Edwards buckets, to not let things get completely out of hand. Georgia did appear to be firmly in the driver's seat, stretching the lead to as many as 12 in the first stanza, eventually taking a 9-point advantage, 37-28, into half. Dean Wade was hiding in a shell, and Stephen Hurt was an undeniable non-factor.

Coming out in the second half, hopes were certainly pinned on halftime adjustments and creating a little fire and aggression inside the players. It worked, as K-State was the aggressor on both ends of the floor from the opening of the final 20 minutes, taking off on a 7-0 run...wait, let me restate that...Dean Wade took off on a 7-0 run, hitting a 3 to cut the Georgia from 9 to 2 a bit over three minutes. From that point, it was on. The Cats defense ramped up, creating turnovers and forcing bad shots from Georgia, and the offense was able to get out and find some transition buckets off the turnovers. This second half would end up a punch/counter-punch slobberknocker of sorts. K-State would tie the game up at 42-all, and the Cats and Bulldogs would be tied up 5 more times, with neither team getting away by more than 4 points the rest of the way.

With Georgia up 65-64 with 2:05 remaining, K-State came down the floor and - somewhat reminiscent of the late-game failures against UNC - had a stretch of poor execution, exemplified by a rushed three attempt from Stokes, an offensive board that was swung around to the Big Fella for another rushed three at the end of the shot clock, and eventually a deadball rebound to Georgia. Going back the other way, Gaines and Mike Edwards both missed decent cracks at the bucket, and Hurt came up with his biggest contribution, a man-sized defensive board that gave K-State another chance. Justin Edwards had a couple of decent looks at scoring on the Wildcats' next possession, but after some (ahem) "defense" by Georgia, K-state came up with an additional possession with 1:03 left. HC Bruce Weber takes a timeout to calm everyone down.

Out of the timeout, the Cats run a great motion set that results in Edwards swinging the ball around to an open Dean Wade at 17 feet on the right baseline.

Splash. K-State by 1 with 0:53 left.

Going back the other way, Georgia moves the ball around, running the shot clock way down. A missed jumper sends the ball toward the free throw line. Four players all jump after the ball...and a loose-ball foul is called on Stokes.

Mike Edwards goes to the line for two - makes the first, misses the second. Big rebound by Wes.

Wes gets the ball to Stokes, who brings it up the floor. Wes hits the block and pops back out to the wing to get the pass with 15 seconds to go. We're running this with no timeout...here we go. Playing to win.

From the top of the key, DJ Johnson comes up to set a ball screen; Wes comes off that screen, spins off the help defender to the left, and finds an open Dean Wade on the left wing. He sidesteps to the baseline, rises from 17 feet, and...

Ice. Cold. Dagger. K-State by 2 with 4.1 left.

Georgia inbounds the ball to the speedy JJ Frazier, who brings it up the left side the court. He makes his way to about 30 feet on the left wing, and lets one fly. Looks like its on line, and Justin Edwards jumps up to - inexplicably - get thisclose to offensive goaltending. Refs wave it off. Ballgame. Cats strut out of Athens with a big road win, and move to 6-1 on the season.

"Give Kansas State credit. Their defense was very good in the second half...I thought they played super hard..." - Georgia HC Mark Fox

Stats, STAT:

9.

The Wildcats took care of the ball pretty well through the entire 40 minutes. Committing only 9 turnovers was key to keep Georgia from getting easy buckets.

16.

K-State snared 16 offensive rebounds, continuing their prowess on finding additional possessions in the game. Those 16 boards turned into 13 points.

37.5% (6-16).

The Cats connected on 6-16 from beyond the arc - 3-8 in both halves equally - which kept things honest on the perimeter and allowed for some inside driving by Edwards and Iwundu throughout the game. The 37.5% clip is notably above K-State's season average (30.4%) as well as Georgia's 3PFG defense (30.1%).

Player Of The Game: Dean Wade

Dean's second appearance in this slot is well deserved...and he basically did it in 20 minutes. Wade had an unremarkable first half, tallying 1 point, 1 assist, 1 block, and 3 rebounds on 0-5 shooting (0-2 3P), 1-2 from the line. By all accounts, that's not good production for 17 minutes.

He came out with his hair on fire in the second half - veritably, a different player - and went 6-8 from the floor (1-2 from beyond the arc), 3-4 from the stripe for 16 points, with 3 boards and another assist in 13 minutes of play due to some foul trouble. He started the second half by scoring 7 straight, and finished the Bulldogs off with two more stone cold jumpers.

"To have a successful season, you have to win on the road a lot of the times. So it was a good game for us. We fought hard against them and Georgia's a good team, so it was a big step for us." - FR Forward Dean Wade

Smart kid.

Tigger Of The Game: Wesley Iwundu

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.

Wes gets the spot mainly for what could have been. In the second half, Wes took a pass on the left wing from about 25 feet, and went HARD to the bucket, rising for a vicious tomahawk dunk...almost...drawing the 4th foul on Georgia's Houston Kessler. Wes also hit two big free throws down the stretch, and came up with what ended up being the game-winning defensive board and assist. Wes finished with 14 points on 4-9 shooting, 6-10 FT, with 3 boards, 2 assists and a steal.

Other Notable Performances

Justin Edwards continues to fill up the stat sheet, hitting two big threes on his way to 12 points on 5-12 shooting, with 8 boards, 3 assists, and a steal.

Kam Stokes keeps tossing up heat checks, but as long as he keeps making them, he can keep launching. Stokes posted 13 points on 3-6 shooting (3-5 3PFG), 4-4 FT, with a rebound, an assist, and a steal while committing zero turnovers.

DJ Johnson logged a season-high 24 minutes, contributing 6 points on 3-5 shooting, and added 3 boards, a blocked shot, and a steal...off one of Georgia's guards...four feet outside the top of the key.

Georgia's Yante Maten led the Bulldogs with 20 points on 8-11 shooting, with 5 boards and 3 swats. Kenny Gaines added 17 points on 6-13 shooting with 5 boards and 2 blocks of his own.

Big Thoughts:

1. Road Win.

Road wins are tough to come by. Period. This one is especially sweet, because it exhibited that fight, that resolve that we've seen already, combined with learning how to stay the course and close out a game from how the UNC game closed out. These guys didn't panic when things didn't go well in the first half, and showed just how lockdown they could be on both ends.

2. Balanced Scoring.

Another game of at least 4 double-digit scorers, another victory. There are six players on this team that could come up with at least 10 points on any given night, and the biggest thing - they have no problem sharing that role. This keeps defenses honest - an opponent could key on Edwards, and Wade, Kam and Wes can all put 15 on the scoreboard. Try to shut Dean down, and Edwards could go for 18 with 12 each from Big Fella and Microwave Brown.

On a related note, we saw that the team puts the trust in Justin and Wes when a play needs to be made. Not the trust to explicitly score - but get something positive to occur. They are the leaders of the team. If the ball is in their hands at the end of the game, good things will happen.

3. Lapse in defensive focus for an entire half.

It wasn't all roses - our defense in the first half was atrocious. We gave up 50% FG in the first half, including 42.9% from outside the arc. 18 points in the paint. 6 second chance points on 5 offensive boards. 8 assists on 15 made field goals. Only created 5 turnovers. Maten had 10 and Gaines had 13 at half. Lack of communication was rampant. No aggression. Guys would try to defend one-on-one...but that's not basketball defense. No rotations, no weakside help. Mismatch switches with no recovery. Slow recovery from perimeter hedges. We're lucky we didn't find ourselves in more of a hole than we were.

Next Up:

#EMAW returns to the friendly confines of the Octagon, hosting the Coppin State Eagles on Wednesday, December 9.