Kansas State knocked off Omaha 79-64 in their final tune-up before the showdown with Arkansas in Kansas City next Monday (should be fun after a big Wildcat football win on Saturday). Despite the 15 point margin, the scoreboard is being kind to Omaha.
The Wildcats started the game with a 15-5 flourish, putting to rest any inclination the Mavericks may have had about a repeat of last season’s nail biter. More impressive for K-State is the way they scored 15 quick points. All 5 starters contributed, and Nijel and Selton took turns playing point guard and dishing out assists. After last season’s grinding, painful basketball, this team made basketball look easy.
Omaha was a game opponent, and put together a few runs to keep the score close in the first half, but Wake transfer Ish Massoud was unstoppable, pouring in all 15 of his points in the first half. The 6’9” sharp shooter has a sweet stroke from deep with a high release that is unbothered by closing defenders. The defense was also good, holding Omaha to 26 points for the half. Better still, Davion Bradford managed to put in solid consecutive minutes. The big man from Saint Louis looks like he is getting his legs and lungs back. When he returns to 100%, this team could be extremely interesting.
The second half saw more of the same from Bruce’s crew. Ish cooled off, but Nijel stepped into the void with his flame thrower from deep. He finished the game with 17 points, including going 3 of 4 from deep. None of his makes hit the rim. I’m not sure they hit the net either. The kid from Indianapolis has a pure stroke and a quick trigger. Omaha made an occasional run, and cut the lead to 12 at one point while Weber fiddled with his lineups, but anytime the starters were on the floor, it was clear who was in control of the game.
Omaha finished on a 13-2 run in garbage time to make the score look respectable, but in reality, the Wildcats were 30-40 points better if they were playing their normal rotation. Guys, Omaha isn’t good, but K-State looked much better tonight than at any point last season. The players looked confident, the offense ran smoothly, and everyone except Mike McGuirl looked like they were enjoying the game of basketball (Mike is currently mired in a funk so pungent I can smell him in Athens. I have faith that my boy is about to break out.)
You’re starting to see how these players fit together, and I’m getting a touch excited. Nijel and Selton Miguel handed off play making duties throughout the game and compliment each other well. Miguel finished with 6 assists and Pack contributed 5. Still need Selton to tighten things up in the turnover department, but man, I love the idea of him blowing by defenders and hitting Pack and Massoud spotting up on the wings. Speaking of Massoud, his 3 point shooting was nice, but he put together a solid all around game, including 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He looks smooth taking guys off the dribble at 6’9” and his shot is unblockable.
Mark Smith plays the role of the old head on the roster. The Missouri transfer quietly put in 11 points and pulled down 8 boards from his wing position. He was almost exclusively a spot up shooter at Missouri, but Bruce is letting him get back to the all around game that made him one of the top high school prospects in Illinois. Markquis Nowell is the live wire off the bench that every team needs, and Weber is letting him do his thing, although I do think I saw his eye twitching at one point as Nowell careened towards the basket with reckless abandon.
The front court duo of Ezeagu and Bradford looks intimidating. EZ is a fully grown man in the paint, and when he manages to catch the ball within 3 feet, he’s going to dunk it. He moved well on the interior and made himself available for a couple nice dunks off lobs. You can tell that Davion isn’t quite right yet, and could maybe stand to drop a few pounds, but he looked much better tonight and will be a force in the paint sooner rather than later. Even deep reserve Luke Kasubke showed off his 3 point range for the second straight game. Don’t give up on the kid, I think he’s going to make an impact before his time in Manhattan is over.
Anyway, this is a bit wordy for a quick recap, but if you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about K-State basketball. This could be a fun year.