Cats Run Past USC into Holiday Classic Final

LAS VEGAS, Nev. True freshman Bill Walker scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and Kansas State ran away from Southern California over the final 30 minutes for a 68-55 victory in the first semifinal of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic Friday night at the Orleans Arena.

David Hoskins shared game-high scoring honors with 19 points and Cartier Martin and Blake Young each added nine points for Kansas State (9-3), which will battle New Mexico, a 71-68 winner over No. 8 Wichita State in the other semifinal, Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. (CST) for the Holiday Classic title.

Kansas State trailed by five at the break and by seven after a dunk by USC’s Taj Gipson to open the second half scoring gave the Trojans a 30-23 lead.

But Walker, who was 7-for-8 at the free throw line for the game, ignited a 20-3 run with nine unanswered points to put Kansas State on top 32-30 and the Wildcats never trailed again.

A free throw by Nick Young briefly stemmed the bleeding for USC to make it 34-31 with 13:47 to play, but K-State scored 11 of the next 15 points to build its first double-digit lead at 45-35.

Daniel Hackett, who paced Southern California (9-3) with 14 points, tried to keep the Trojans in the game and scored 11 of USC’s next 13 points.

But the Wildcats kept pushing the tempo and after a 6-0 run K-State had its biggest lead of the game at 66-49 with just under two minutes to play.

USC closed the game by scoring six of the final eight points to provide the final margin.

Three ties and nine lead changes highlighted a disjointed first half that saw USC commit 16 turnovers and K-State shoot just 23 percent from the floor before the Trojans settled for a 28-23 lead at intermission.

The two teams would go on to combine for 55 personal fouls, with the Wildcats capitalizing at the stripe by sinking 22-of-25 free throws in the second half.