The Kansas State Wildcats did about what was expected Sunday, defeating the Green Bay Phoenix 82-64.
Without the services of super-senior Mike McGuirl (illness), and with Selton Miguel and Nijel Pack fighting through their own physical issues, the Wildcats (6-3) rode the solid efforts of newcomers Markquis Nowell (22 points, 8 assists), Ismael Massoud (17 points, 5-5 FG, 4-4 3-point FG, 3-3 FT) and Mark Smith (14 points, 10 rebounds) to an easy victory.
Lack of defensive focus to start both halves threatened to keep this one in doubt. Green Bay (2-8) scored 15 points in the game’s first 4:37 and, after a three-point bucket by Kamari McGee, the Phoenix led K-State 15-12. But a 17-5 run gave the Wildcats a 9-point advantage with 9:41 to play in the first half. Green Bay would stage its own 6-point run to get back within three, but K-State would answer with a 17-4 burst to lead 46-40 at the break.
Defensive ambivalence would rear its head again after the break, as Green bay poured in 12 points in the first 4:30. But the Cats matched their pace and pulled away from there, leading by as many as 21 and allowing the walk-ons to play the final few minutes.
For the game, K-State shot 28-51, good for 54.5%, from the floor. They were nearly as good from outside the arc, making 11-21 (52.4%). The Cats were also excellent at the free throw line, making 15 of 17 attempts (88.2%).
The Wildcats also out-rebounded the Phoenix, who are known for aggressiveness on the boards, 26-22, and they had 17 assists against only 8 turnovers.
Green Bay was led by Japannah Kellogg III, who had 15 points, and McGee, who scored 14.
Three in the Key
- Quick nod to Ish Massoud, who had struggled with his shot the past few weeks, put in extra work on his own time, and has clearly found the stroke. Perfect shooting days are not all that rare. Perfect shooting days by 6’9 guys that include 4-4 from outside? Not common at all.
- Second nod to Markquis Nowell, who is quickly showing that Coach Weber needs to leave him on the floor. His 22 points were undoubtedly nice. But his ability to break down defenses and find open teammates is at least as valuable, and probably more. He is a point guard reminiscent of Angel Rodriguez and Denis Clemente, both of whom—at their best—elevated the entire K-State roster.
- Final nod to Bruce and the transfer portal. For the second straight game, K-State had to rely on the trio of Nowell, Smith and Massoud, as McGuirl was unavailable and the triumvirate of sophomores, Nijel Pack, Selton Miguel and Davion Bradford, each of whom is nursing one medical issue or another, scored 6 points apiece. Though today’s game was by no means a masterpiece, the Cats’ ability to create easy shots by getting around defenders has been more than enough to ward off past catastrophes against lesser opponents, and even to win comfortably when not everything has been perfect. The talent of the transfers and the speed with which they have adapted to Weber’s game plan has been key in the early season victories.
The Wildcats take time off for final exams before traveling to Lincoln to play the 5-6 Cornhuskers at 5:00 next Sunday. You will not be able to watch unless you have the Big 10 Network, so let’s hope Wyatt Thompson keeps the vocal chords healthy during the one-week hiatus.