Clark W. Griswold, of National Lampoon's Vacation fame, when trying to catch the squirrel from the Christmas tree: "I'm gonna catch it in the coat, then smack it with the hammer." This pretty much sums up yesterday's game, as the Kansas State Wildcats caught the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a coat and smacked 'em with a hammer, winning 89-73 in Manhattan.
The Cowboys never led. What was expected to be a slow, grind-it-out game started that way, with neither team changing the 0-0 tie until a Kamau Stokes three nearly 2 minutes in. It was all K-State the rest of the way. Everyone on the team made positive contributions throughout the first half, as the Wildcats would earn and hold a 5-7 point lead most of the half, and with a 18-7 run across 4:56 late in the half, was able to go into the break up 19 points, 49-30. The Wildcat offense attacked and attacked, getting most notable Cowboys into some sort of foul trouble.
This was the most dominating 20 minutes of basketball Kansas State has played this season. You could see through movement and attitude the entire half, even without noting results - the guys were locked and dialed. They knew exactly what they had to do, and went out and did it. Defense was stifling (nearly half of the OSU 30 points came off of either turnovers or very difficult forced shots), holding the Cowboys to 30% from the floor and only 2 points in the paint, 2 points on the fastbreak, and 2 points from offensive rebounds. On the other end, the Wildcat offense was absolutely undressing the Okie Lite defense over and over again, on their way to shooting 63% from the floor, 75% (6-8) from behind the arc, and amassing 20 points in the paint, 11 points off turnovers, 6 second-chance points, and 11 fastbreak points.
How dominating was it? It sparked an OSU fan, sitting a couple rows behind the visitor's bench, to yell out, "How did you guys beat Kansas?"
An issue K-State has had this entire season is putting two halves together. Even at home, we usually have either a pedestrian first and excellent second half, or conversely, a stellar first half and hang on through the final 20. I'm not sure what the squad has worked on this week in practice, but it worked, as K-State came out with very little let-up. The Wildcats would stretch the lead out to 22 before the first media timeout. Oklahoma State figured a couple of things out in the second half; through increased effort on the offensive glass, they were able to find a few more buckets and keep up with the Wildcats, but the foul trouble was mounting. Freshman phenom Jawun Evans picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the second half, and the bigs of Anthony Allen, Mitchell Solomon and Chris Olivier were rendered ineffective. The Cowboys were able to cut the lead to 13, 70-57, with just over nine minutes left, but K-State came back hard on the shoulders of Stephen Hurt. The Wildcats stretched the lead back out to a game-high 23 with 3:50 left, and more-or-less coasted to the finish line.
K-State knocked down shots at a 57.7% rate, 30-52, including 9-17 from beyond the arc. These are the highest shooting percentages for the team this season.
A Bruce Weber-led K-State team has never scored as many points in a conference game as the 89 against Oklahoma State. 49 points in the first half is a season high for first-half points for the squad.
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Kamau Stokes and Justin Edwards (13 each), Dean Wade and Wesley Iwundu adding 12, and Stephen Hurt finishing with 11.
The Wildcats were able to draw the Oklahoma State bigs away from the bucket and find a lot of easy points, outscoring Oklahoma State 38-28 on points in the paint.
Player Of The Game: Wesley Iwundu
Wes did not lead the team in scoring or rebounding. He simply led the team. Wes got the squad off on the right foot early by attacking on offense, played suffocating defense, snagged a steal and a runout for a two-handed flush early in the first half, and quite simply, made the right decision every single time. It was the most dialed in as a true leader we've seen Wes his career. It was almost creepy, you could see it in his eyes. He finished with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, and added 4 rebounds, 4 assists, two steals and zero turnovers in a team-high 30 minutes.
Tigger Of The Game: DJ Johnson
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 found himself an offensive board from a Barry Brown miss, rose up, and threw it down two-handed in the second half to put the Cats up 19; the power dunk gets DJ another "Tigger of the Game" award. DJ had a fantastic night, finishing with 8 points on 2-2 from the floor, 4-4 from the stripe, and added 6 rebounds and 2 steals in 18 minutes.
Other Notable Performances
Dean Wade had a hell of a game, though his stats aren't other-worldly. Wade would finish with 12 points on 3-7 shooting, but he hit two big open threes, and added 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot.
First time seeing Kansas State freshman Dean Wade in person. Stud!— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) January 24, 2016
Justin Edwards' only blemish came on the turnover front, where he coughed the ball up 4 times. Everything else was peaches, though, as he scored a team-high 13 points on 5-6 shooting (1-1 from 3, 2-2 from the line), and added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. In 24 minutes. Close second for player of the game, in fact.
Kamau Stokes scored a team-high 13 with 3 rebounds and 2 assists, shooting 4-6 from behind the arc.
Stephen Hurt might as well have been in street clothes in the first half, committing 2 fouls in 6 minutes, and not a single positive stat. Challenged at halftime, he came out in the second and did all his damage, finishing with 11 on 3-4 shooting (1-2 3PFG), 4-4 from the line, and 5 rebounds. The Big Fella finished with only 15 minutes of court time, which means he did all that damage in only 9 minutes.
Barry Brown had a quieter game, finishing with 9 points on 4-8 shooting, and picking up 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. Austin Budke also played solidly in the background (aside from two back-to-back turnovers in the first half), finishing with 6 points and 2 boards without missing a shot.
Jawun Evans was all the talk coming into the game, but his foul trouble replacement stole the show for OSU. Tyree Griffin played some ball, leading the Cowboys with 18 points off the bench (5-9 FG, 1-2 3PFG, 7-8 FT), with 2 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals.
1. Crazy what executing the offense can do.
This is exactly thought #1 from after the Texas Tech game, but it was even better against Oklahoma State. OSU was the best scoring defense in the Big 12, and we absolutely undressed them, finding nearly any open shot we wanted.
Players were in the right spots, and on time. The ball was moving, players were moving, and the OSU defense was forced to step up or recover, creating cracks in the weakside for easy buckets. The zone offense was run to perfection, with Wade taking up shop in the high post and distributing from there. The man offense was effective as well, with good two-man ball-screen game, as well as teammates crashing to the basket off the drive, finding themselves open for layups.
2. Defense stepped up.
Aside from getting a little lazy in the second half and allowing some offensive rebounds and a couple easy buckets, the defense was impeccable. Perimeter defenders were making an effort to stay in front of outside players, and the K-State bigs were doing a good job of eliminating post entry passes. Everyone closed out on threes at a good rate, help defense was coming early and second- and third-rotations were showing up. Weakside defenders were staying awake, deflecting or picking off skip passes.
3. The next step: Do this on the road.
Its not easy to put two halves together like this for a young team, but it's more likely to happen at home, especially in front of probably the largest home crowd so far this season. However, the next step - the step from "sold competitor" to "conference threat" - is being able to play for 40 minutes on the road. Let's see if K-State can figure that out in Morgantown on Wednesday.
#EMAW travels to Morgantown to avenge their 2OT loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers on Tuesday, January 26 (600p CST).