K-State upsets Ole Miss 61-58

Josh Staab | Collegian Freshman forward Wesley Iwundu was all business as he head to the line to put yesterday's game versus Ole Miss out of reach. Iwundu scored ten of K-State's 61 points in their win against the then undefeated Ole Miss squad.Photo credit: Josh Staab.

The K-State men’s basketball team knocked down an undefeated Ole Miss last night, moving their record to 5-3. The Wildcats struggled to score, but defended well and won a tight battle 61-58. The game was played in front of a national audience on ESPN2, and was K-State’s biggest home nonconference game in several years.

“It’s a huge win for us, there’s no doubt,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “We fought and toughed it out. You hold a team like that to 29 points each half, and 58 [points] for the game. We did a great job on Henderson. Will started on him, but he got in foul trouble and we had to have freshman on him and they stayed locked in.”

For the first time this season, Bramlage Coliseum was rocking. The student section was loud for much of the night, and helped keep the K-State players locked in down the stretch.

“This was my first time being here,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “I can’t say enough about the students here and how they get into it. You guys are a little spoiled. We don’t see that very often.”

Weber had similar feelings about the crowd, speaking in length about how much of an impact the students have and how the players feed off their energy.

“It is so much fun to have the crowd there,” Weber said. “It energizes the building. Hopefully that will continue, but we have to play well so they want to come and get excited about it.”

The Wildcats were led by freshman forward Marcus Foster and junior forward Thomas Gipson, who both finished the night with 15 points. Freshman forward Wesley Iwundu chipped in 10 points, and led K-State with 10 rebounds. Overall, the Wildcats shot only 36.5 percent, and struggled mightily from the free-throw line, finishing 19-34. However, down the stretch, the Wildcats knew right where to go.

“The final seven minutes the offense basically ran through me, I think,” said Gipson. “I did my work early and I was patient.”

Gipson was quick to point to his teammates as big contributors. He reiterated how the work done on the perimeter allows him to get open looks inside, and how him posting hard frees up shooters.

Ole Miss simply had no answer for Gipson inside, who consistently went to his left hand and finished with contact. After losing over 20 pounds in the offseason, Gipson looks more athletic and powerful.

“[Gipson] was the difference,” Kennedy said. “Give the kid credit, he finished and made huge plays for them.”

Ole Miss senior guard Marshall Henderson continued his iconic play, jacking up bad shot after bad shot en route to a 4-18 night from the floor. Henderson finished with 13 points, and air balled a 3-pointer that would have given Ole Miss a victory. The Rebels were led by Jarvis Summers, who finished with 18 points on 6-9 shooting. Ole Miss shot 18 3-pointers, hitting only three. The poor shooting by both teams was a combination of poor shot selection and good defense. It wasn’t perfect, but Weber was very pleased with how his team defended the backcourt of Ole Miss.

“We get in some foul trouble and now these freshman are guarding older, experienced guards that have played in the SEC and NCAA Tournament,” Weber said. “We made a few mistakes, but overall I thought they did a great job of defending.”

The win will serve not only as a confidence booster, but also a chance for growth. The Wildcats played much of the night with three freshman on the court, and found out on the fly what the adjustment from high school to college is like.

“It’s different. We don’t have [Angel Rodriguez] or [Rodney McGruder] making plays,” Weber said. “Everyone had to make plays.”

The Wildcats will take a short break before returning to action on Dec. 10 against South Dakota at Bramlage. While it is only December, last night’s win was a huge statement. Not only are the Wildcats improving, but they are slowly becoming what looks like an NCAA tournament team. If the trend continues, the Wildcats will be a tough matchup once conference play kicks off in January.