Offense Keys K-State to 98-68 win over Southern Utah

The Basics
•    Final Score: Kansas State 98, Southern Utah 68
•    Records: Kansas State 1-0, 0-0 Big 12 // Southern Utah 0-1, 0-0 Big Sky
•    Next Game: Monday, Nov. 17 \\ vs. UMKC \\ 7 p.m. CT \\ FOX Sports Midwest

The Short Story
•    Sophomore guard Nigel Johnson led six Wildcats in double figures with a career-high 18 points to go along with five assists and two steals, as Kansas State outran Southern Utah, 98-68, in its home opener before 12,405 fans at Bramlage Coliseum on Friday night.
•    Senior forward Thomas Gipson added 17 points off of 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 9-of-13 from the charity stripe. He pitched in a team-leading six rebounds as well, in 25 minutes played.
•    Sophomore guards Marcus Foster (13) and Tre Harris (13) also scored in double figures for K-State.
•    Rounding out the double-digit scorers were juniors Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt with 11 points each.

How It Happened  |  First Half
•    Both the Wildcats and the Thunderbirds came out strong in the first half, matching each other basket-for-basket, with K-State leading 27-25 at the 9:01 mark – Gipson got off to a hot start for the ‘Cats scoring their first three baskets of the contest, while Edwards contributed the first three assists for K-State.
•    Distancing themselves with a 15-5 run, K-State extended its lead to 42-30 before ceding six-straight Thunderbird points to end the half. Gipson led all scorers at the break with 14 points, with the Wildcats, as a whole, shooting 50 percent from the field.
•    Southern Utah took its first and only lead of the game at the 17:44 mark, 7-4. The ‘Cats would respond though, with a 3-pointer from Tre Harris and some timely free-throw shooting by Edwards, Gipson and Johnson to pull 15-14 at 13:45.
•    The Thunderbirds remained resilient throughout much of the half, but the Wildcats saw their largest lead of the half, 13 points, come at 3:35 mark. The ‘Cats led 44-36 lead at halftime.

How It Happened  |  Second Half
•    The Wildcats came out in the second half on a high note with 3-pointers from Hurt and Johnson. K-State started to pull away at the 13:22 mark with a 3-pointer by Johnson to push the lead to 21.
•    Johnson’s dominance in the second half helped balloon the K-State lead well into the 20s, as he made three 3-pointers, as well as added five assists in the second half. He would finish the second half with 12 points, five assists and two steals.
•    Also playing a part for K-State in the second half was Harris, who added 10 points and two 3-pointers. Sophomore Brandon Bolden’s aggressive dunks in the second half helped add momentum as well, with his alley-oop finish off the backboard from Jevon Thomas extending the lead to 91-57 at the 4:20 mark.
•    Southern Utah turned over the ball 14 times in the second half leading to 18 points-off turnovers . K-State’s bench was crucial to the 30-point victory adding 38 points. In all, the Wildcats would have six players finish in double-figures. K-State outscored the Thunderbirds, 54-32, in the second half.

Beyond the Boxscore
•    With the win, K-State is now 86-25 (.773) all-time in season openers dating back to 1903.
•    K-State improved to 74-9 (.890) at home in season openers, including 21-2 (.909) at Bramlage Coliseum.
•    K-State is now 66-3 (.957) in non-conference play dating back to 2006-07, including 64-2 (.970) mark during the regular season… The Wildcats have won 55 of its last 56 non-conference home games.
•    The 98 points were the most scored in the Bruce Weber era, surpassing the 87 scored against Central Arkansas (12/1/13), and the most since scoring 100 against North Florida (12/31/10)… The 98 points were the most scored in a season opener since scoring 103 vs. Texas-San Antonio (11/23/91).
•    K-State connected on 58.7 percent (27-of-46) from the field, including 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from 3-point range and 70.8 percent (34-of-48) from the free throw line… It was both the highest field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage of the Bruce Weber era.
•    The 58.7 field goal percentage was the highest by a Wildcat team since shooting 60.3 percent (35-of-58) against North Carolina Central (2/17/09).

•    “I thought our guys did a good job, especially after the start of the second half to be focused,” said head coach Bruce Weber. “We talked after the last game about how we were disappointed and we would take shots and make bad decisions. We were much more patient and shared the basketball. Obviously, we shot it pretty well too, but for Nigel [Johnson] with the five assists and no turnovers and Jevon [Thomas] five and one, that is 10-to-1 for your point guards and that start sets the tone for everyone. I thought our bench did a great job. Nigel, Brian Rohleder, even Brandon [Bolden] a little big in the first half when we got some foul trouble. We got guys hurt and we had to survive. Again, right before half we were up 13 with 3:35 left. We just did not make some good decisions. Hopefully, that will come with maturity. Our guys were patient, got inside and outside. I thought we did a little bit better in the second half against their zone. There were probably just a few adjustments. They got us early. They were getting Jevon and Nigel with some quick hitter ball screens. They got us kind of all spread out. Obviously, A.J. Hess is a pretty good player and made four or five threes, that put us in a little bit of a bind, but we made some adjustments and did a little bit better in the second half. We probably wore them down and kind of broke their spirit.”  

Up Next
•    K-State makes a quick turnaround on Monday, as the Wildcats play host to UMKC (1-0, 0-0 WAC) in the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational at 7 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Midwest.