The Kansas State Wildcats prevailed 73-70 in a physical matchup that required overtime versus the Providence Friars in the semifinals of the Baha Mar Hoops - Bahamas Championship Friday evening.
The game was physical and sloppy throughout, as both teams turned the ball over at a high rate early, neither team found much shooting touch against aggressive defense, and neither team led by more than six points until the Wildcats (3-1) forged a 7-point lead late in the extra period. The game featured 10 ties and 10 lead changes.
Several K-State players authored crucial mini-runs at different stages of the contest. Will McNair Jr. opened the game with a three-point make and scored K-State’s first 7 points. After the game went to halftime with K-State leading 29-26, Providence staged a 5-0 run to take the lead with 17:55 to play. But Arthur Kaluma, who had played Providence previously with its Big East Conference-mate Creighton, took the game on his shoulders. He hit back-to-back three-pointers to put K-State up 35-31. After Tylor Perry contributed a jumper, Kaluma made a lay-up to reestablish a four-point, 39-35 lead.
The crucial one-man run came, ironically, via the two-man game by David N’Guessan in overtime. After failing to score in regulation, DNG executed the pick-and-roll to perfection with Perry twice and slashed to the bucket to receive an easy dime from Cam Carter to open a 69-63 K-State lead with less than a minute remaining.
Crucial as those personal mini-runs were, none came from the player of the game. Tylor Perry led all scorers with 24 points. Though he shot only 4-11 (2-7 from three-point range), the North Texas transfer was a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line.
Free throws and three-point shooting gave the Wildcats the winning margin. Though the ‘Cats only made 8 of 22 deep attempts (36.4%), that was three makes better than the Friars, who hit only 5 of 22 (22.7%). K-State allowed Providence to attempt 68 shots from the field, making 24, while only putting up 57 of their own, making 21. But K-State made 23 of 27 from the free throw line, while Providence converted only 17 of 24.
In addition to Perry’s 24, Kaluma finished with 18. McNair and Dai Dai Ames each scored 10. Ames led the team with 5 assists. Carter had a tough shooting night (2-11), but led the team with 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Cam played a team-high 44 minutes before fouling out.
It was perhaps fitting that a physical, ugly game ended ugly, as well. As K-State was trying to inbound the ball, up 73-68 with 7 seconds remaining, Ames took a shove from fellow top-100 freshman Garwey Dual. Ames staggered back, then appeared to push off of Dual’s face or neck as he broke to the ball. Dual retaliated by trying to punch Ames into the third row behind the Providence bench. Thankfully, the punch was as wild as the his team’s three-point shooting. Kudos to Friars’ head coach Kim English for grabbing Ames and defusing the situation, or an all-out brawl may have resulted.
As it was, both players were ejected for flagrant-2 fouls, Providence hit a meaningless put-back lay-up, and the horn mercifully sounded.
Devin Carter led Providence with 19. Fellow star Bryce Hopkins was held to 10, shooting 2-15 from the floor.
The win for K-State wasn’t artful, but it was the kind of gritty, gut-it-out effort that has quickly become a trademark of Coach Tang’s teams. Winning tough games early can pay dividends late in the season, when every game is a grinder.
The Wildcats will meet 2023 Final-4 participant, No. 12 Miami and our old pal Nijel Pack in the championship game Sunday at 1:30 on CBS Sports Network.