If today was Mike McGuirl’s last hoedown at Bramlage, he made it count.
The senior dropped a team-high 17, while Dajuan Gordon and Nijel Pack both reached double figures, to lead Kansas State (8-19, 4-14) to a 61-56 win over hapless Iowa State (2-21, 0-18).
The Cyclones scored the first basket, and at 13:09 in the first half regained a 10-9 lead; those were the only two points in the game when the Wildcats were on the wrong end of the scoreboard. The Cats led by eight at the half, and a Pack three-pointer 86 seconds into the second half gave K-State a 12-point edge, their largest of the game. A pair of Jaden Walker free throws at 13:34 closed the gap to only three, but that was the only moment of the second half when the Cyclones were within a possession; K-State pushed the lead back out to ten, and mostly held steady until Iowa State hit from three with just six seconds left to narrow the lead to five at the buzzer.
There isn’t much to take away from this game going forward. K-State did what it needed to do to win the game and avoid being an embarrassing footnote, but given the team’s improved performance over the last few weeks one could be forgiven for having expected a more resounding victory. Still, K-State was within a shot of holding a double digit lead for the vast majority of the half, so the outcome was never in doubt either.
After the game, Bruce Weber reported that Antonio Gordon, who was not present, is done for the year due to the effect of multiple injuries over the course of the season. There’s speculation this means more than what Weber is saying, largely because Weber didn’t actually answer the question of whether AG is still in the program. But speculation it remains at present.
Next up for the Cats is a rematch with TCU in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday.
Three in the Key
1) K-State could very well have lost this game; their shooting in the second half was absolutely abysmal at 26% from the field and 23% from beyond the arc. But an 81% clip from the free throw line, where they were awarded 16 attempts in the half, saved the day. Don’t get the idea this was home cooking; Iowa State committed 18 fouls in the game to K-State’s 17.
2) Despite trailing 7-2 on fast break points, K-State outscored the Cyclones off turnovers 15-8. There’s a very easy explanation for this: Iowa State held a 41-28 edge on the Cats on the boards, while K-State only committed eight turnovers to Iowa State’s 16.
3) While this season isn’t an improvement over last season in the overall record department, the Cats did win one more conference game than they won last year, and the eyeball test over the last month has — largely, with a couple of blips — been extremely positive. Next season will still be a bit shaky, one presumes, but the pieces are there to step forward.