With nine minutes to go in the first half, things looked rather bleak for your Kansas State Wildcats. They had dug themselves into a 28-14 hole to Abilene Christian, and were struggling to make shots while the other Wildcats were torching the net from deep.
Seriously, ACU opened the game going 5-7 from behind the arc. I say that because I know many of you couldn’t actually watch the first part of the game (thanks ESPN for being terrible at the one thing you shouldn’t be terrible at...), and probably missed the early onslaught.
But then our Cats flipped the switch, and went on a 21-6 run to end the half and go into the locker room with a 35-34 lead. Nearly half of K-State’s first-half points came from David N’Guessan, who had 16 first-half points on 6-6 shooting, including a triple, and a 3-5 line from the line. He also grabbed four rebounds and made a block in just the first half.
And while K-State didn’t exactly run away with things in the second half, they slowly built their lead and finally got some serious offensive contributions from the rest of the team, en-route to a 81-64 win that was much closer than the final score would indicate. With the win, the Wildcats improve to 8-1 on the season. The real key wasn’t the offense turning on, though that helped, but it was much better defense that, among other things, shut down ACU’s outside shooting — after the southern Wildcats started 5-7, they finished the game going 7-19 from deep. That’s quite a turnaround.
N’Guessan finished the game going 9-9 from the field, but just 4-11 from the free throw line for 23 for a new career-high for the junior. And yes, if you do the math you’ll see he could’ve had 30 points with a few more makes from the charity stripe. N’Guessan’s 9-9 performance joins Keyontae Johnson’s 9-9 performance against Butler, to become just the second time in a single season that teammates have shot as many without a miss since Joe Wright and Eddie Elder each went 11/11 a month apart in January & February of 1985.
K-State ended up up with four double-figure scorers, as Keyontae Johnson and Nae’Qwan Tomlin each dropped in 12, and Markquis Nowell notched another double-double with 15 points and 12 assists (and the 5’8” guard also grabbed 6 rebounds). With those 12 assists, Nowell has passed 200 while at K-State, making him the fastest Wildcat to that mark at just 32 games, and is also the second time this season with a dozen assists, which is putting him at Steven Henson-levels of aiding his teammates.
Next up, the Wildcats continue their home-stand as they welcome in Incarnate Word on Sunday, Dec. 11th at 2pm.
The MittieCats get back to action tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 7th) as they put their own 8-1 record on the line hosting the Roos of Kansas City at 6:30pm in Bramlage Coliseum. The past few years this has been a highly competitive game, as the Roos had been coached by former K-State assistant Jacie Hoyt. But Hoyt is now the head coach at Oklahoma State, and the Roos are struggling a bit this season under their new coach and enter tonight’s game at just 3-5. Hopefully this is a game that Jeff Mittie can use to get some of his young players a bunch of minutes. The game will be streamed (LOL, maybe) on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
The window to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal opened up at the beginning of the week, and while some teams have already approached double figures of transfers out in just a few days, K-State has (so far) had just four young men decide to leave the program: QB Jaren Lewis, TE Konner Fox, S TJ Smith, and LB Krew Jackson. Of course there likely will be more, but a slow early start suggests that it could be a quiet “out” season for the Wildcats.
Of the four, TJ Smith is the only one who had seen the field with any consistency, but after an injury early on in his career seemed to tame some of his ferocity, he’s seemingly been passed over by other guys. This was probably most apparent after the losses of Kobe Savage and Cincere Mason, true freshman VJ Payne locked down the safety spot and Smith ended up seeing no action in the Big 12 championship game.
Krew Jackson has already announced his intent to join the Arizona State program, which isn’t surprising considering his home town of Queen Creek is just across the metro from Tempe. Though it’s unclear right now if it’s as a walk-on or on scholarship.
Lewis and Fox were both part of Klieman’s initial 2019 class, and while neither played much, they stuck around and continued to be good teammates and important depth pieces. Lewis will graduate as a Wildcat and participated in the Senior Day ceremony before the KU game, and will be a grad transfer wherever he ends up.
Moving to the “Wildcats in the NFL” side of things, two of the men up for the NFL’s 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year award are former Wildcats, as the Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett and the Broncos’ Dalton Risner are both up for the award that “recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field.” Congrats Tyler and Dalton!