In front of a minuscule crowd at Bramlage Coliseum, the K-State men’s basketball team climbed to 4-3 with a dominant 87-54 victory over Central Arkansas, who fell to 2-4 on the season.
The Wildcats had plenty of bright spots on the afternoon, starting with senior guard Shane Southwell, who posted a game-high 19 points.
“I’m happy for Shane,” head coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “He came in the gym last week, put some time in. After struggling early he got rewarded and got some shots down, I hope that continues.”
After a slow start to the season, Southwell looked like he did last year when he was a major playmaker for a team that won a conference championship.
“I just needed to get back to what I was doing all last year, coming in the gym, shooting, and working with the coaches on shooting,” Southwell said. “It paid off today.”
Junior forward Thomas Gipson also had a huge day with 17 points and six rebounds, including the first six points of the game for K-State.
The Wildcats used Gipson’s hot start to jump out to an early 12-2 lead and never looked back. K-State took a 40-19 lead into halftime and were able to coast to the victory.
“We did a good job from the start of setting the tone,” said Weber after the game. “They’re a team that’s a little bit dangerous. We got the ball in to Thomas [Gipson] right away, took advantage of our size, and then we made some more shots.”
Gipson was a force inside for the Wildcats, as none of Central Arkansas’ players could match up in size or strength, allowing him to have his way around the rim.
“He’s been a very much improved dominant player in our practices. We expect this from him,” Weber said. “He’s a forceful guy. With less weight he’s more explosive, he’s more agile, better endurance.”
The Wildcats absolutely dominated the glass, finishing with 52-to-22 rebounding advantage on the day, that included 23 offensive rebounds for the Cats.
“We had size, a little more size body-wise,” Weber said. “They started small, I think they felt they could be quick. Especially offensive rebounds, we were able to be a little more forceful in that. We have put a lot of time into rebounding since the beginning of the year, and probably put even more emphasis in the last couple weeks since we’ve been kind of pounded on the boards.”
After being led by freshmen in many games so far this season, upperclassmen stepped up and carried the team to a victory. Five of the top six scorers for K-State were upperclassmen: senior guard Will Spradling and senior forward Nino Williams each had nine points, while sophomore forward DJ Johnson had eight points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman guard Marcus Foster continued his solid play this season with 10 points, connecting on 2-of-7 threes and 3-of-11 overall. Fellow freshman Wesley Iwundu had a good day as well, with seven points and eight rebounds for the forward.
K-State’s defense upheld the great all-around effort and did not allow Central Arkansas to get into any type groove during the game, dominating from the opening tip to the final buzzer with a strong performance. Central Arkansas shot just 39 percent for the game.
“Defensively we’ve been pretty solid,” Weber said. “That’s a team that scored in the 90s a couple times, and we do a good job of contesting shots and not letting them get any rhythm.”
Still, with the competition set to increase in the near future, Weber looks for consistent intensity.
“Second half, we seemed to let up a little bit,” Weber said. “A team like Mississippi on Thursday, we can’t give teams opportunities.”
K-State faces a huge test Thursday as undefeated Ole Miss comes to Manhattan for an 8 p.m. tip-off. Weber said he is looking for the K-State faithful to give the Wildcats a boost.
“It will be a big challenge for us,” Weber said of Thursday’s matchup. “We’ve talked about continuing to make strides in December, it has to be our month that we take a big step. We’ll have a huge challenge on Thursday and we need Bramlage rocking, we need people there and we need to play at a high level and see if we can compete with a top level team that’s 6-0 right now.”