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Kansas State 70, Washington State 56: Wildcats overcome sloppy start

After a terrible first half, the good guys got it together.

There was a lot of this sort of thing going on tonight.
There was a lot of this sort of thing going on tonight.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

One could be forgiven for throwing in the towel at halftime. Facing a mediocre Washington State squad at a disturbingly quiet Sprint Center in Kansas City, K-State stumbled into the break with a 28-26 lead, and that lead was the first one they’d managed all night.

But given a second chance to emerge from the locker room and play some basketball, the Wildcats applied themselves. Pouring in 42 second-half points, K-State improved to 9-1 with a 70-56 win over the Cougars.

Despite leading the Cats with 10 first-half points, Wesley Iwundu seemed emblematic of the malaise. A bad pass here, a travel there, completely losing the handle on the ball only to have it bounce out to a wide-open Barry Brown in the corner... it seemed like some mishap befell the senior at every turn. He wasn’t the only culprit, as both Brown and Kamau Stokes had first halves they’d like to forget, as well.

But in the end, Iwundu was still the star of the game for K-State, scoring 15 points with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. It was that sort of night.

In the second half, K-State edged the lead up to eight before a Malachi Flynn three brought the Cougars back to within five about five minutes into the half. But then Brown and Carlbe Ervin combined to put together an eight-point run for the Cats before Josh Hawkinson got Washington State back on the board with a jumper. After two scoreless minutes, Iwundu drained a three to put K-State up 14, and it was mostly cruise control the rest of the way.

Brown (14), Dean Wade (11), and Xavier Sneed (10) all joined Iwundu in double figures, and D.J. Johnson had ten boards. Sneed added another seven, and the Wildcats outfought Wazzu on the glass 40-32. That statistical discrepancy — and K-State shooting better from the field in the additional opportunities that rebounding edge afforded them — were the sole indicators leading to the final score, as both teams were relatively equal otherwise.

There were some solid takeaways. The Wildcats only committed 13 fouls on the night, so while they were shaky they at least remained disciplined.

Also, our bright spot of the night award goes to Isaiah Maurice. Ike only played 14 minutes, but snagged four boards, scored four points, blocked a couple of shots, and made an incredibly athletic save at the end line on a ball that was about three feet out of bounds when he batted it back into play. It wasn’t a stunning declaration on the part of the redshirt freshman, but it was definitely a performance worthy of note.

The Cats now get a full week of rest before heading to Denver next Saturday night to take on the Colorado State Rams, after which they’ll complete the non-conference schedule with a home game against Gardner-Webb on the following Wednesday. Tonight’s escape sets up the possibility of heading into conference play at 11-1, just as expected.