For the first time since March, we have Kansas State basketball. But it certainly looked nothing like it did the last time the Wildcats took the court.
Not only did we have all the new faces on the coaching staff and roster, but the Wildcats showcased a nearly completely different style of basketball in their 76-49 win over Washburn in the lone exhibition game of the season.
It was Washburn but...
The Wildcats came out of the gate fast, and quickly opened a 7-0 lead that never let up. They moved quickly up and down the court without it feeling rushed or frenetic, and they took open shots when they had them. Not everything was perfect, and often far from it, but the Wildcats did many fun and different things in the first half. They steadily built their lead while playing solid defense, dove after loose balls, hunted for rebounds, and even put back up missed shots on the offensive end without losing confused or lost. It was something the casual observer might even call “good” basketball.
In short: it was just fun to watch.
The second half was more of the same, though the Wildcats clearly took their foot off the gas a bit after the break but still managed to push their lead out to 34 before Washburn was able to cut it back for the final margin.
The biggest thing to come out of the game was the return of Keyontae Johnson to the court after a nearly two-year hiatus dealing with a medical issue. Johnson not only played, but he started for the Wildcats and showcased his impressive athleticism and basketball IQ in his 17 minutes of action. He scored just 8 points, but grabbed six rebounds, and even snagged two steals. If he can maintain it, Johnson could have a very very good season for the Wildcats.
The Cats were led in scoring by sophomore guard Cam Carter with 13 points, and led in rebounding by junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin with 7, who was also the only other Cat in double figures with 11. Like points, where everybody pitched in, the Wildcats 54 team rebounds were spread across the roster, with every scholarship player grabbing at least one, and seven grabbing four or more. Team rebounding might just be back.
Three in the Key
It was Washburn but...
1. This team has received a serious infusion of athleticism. They were sloppy at times and committed 19 turnovers to 17 assists, but they are long and strong and fast. They scored 46 points in the paint and outpaced the Ichabods 23-5 in second chance points. I don’t want to look it up, but I can’t remember the last K-State that so thoroughly dominated around the basket, even against a lower-division opponent.
2. We may finally get to turn in the patent on the scoring drought. They certainly didn’t score every possession, but there was never a run of 5-10 minutes of game time where the Cats just didn’t score. That happened too many times against even bad teams before and it just didn’t happen tonight. Either a shot would fall, or someone would attack the basket, or they’d stick one off a put-back. Scoring is a good thing, despite what you may have heard.
3. Free throw shooting could be a problem. The Cats went 15-29 at the charity stripe for a measly 51.7%. That’s just not going to cut it against better competition. We lambasted the previous staff for regularly putting out teams that shot in the 50-60% range, and it’s not something we wanted to see held over. Hopefully it was just first-game rust, but the guys probably need to get some more good shots up before next Monday.
Next up, the Wildcats open the “counted” season on Monday, Nov. 7th against UT-Rio Grande Valley at 8pm in Bramlage. The Vaqueros went 8-23 last season but hung with Illinois in Champaign last November.