Following a lackluster loss Friday in California against Long Beach State, K-State men’s basketball head coach Bruce Weber said this week’s Maui Invitational would tell him a lot about his team.
If anything else, it told him Friday was an anomaly.
K-State put together a complete performance Monday in Maui, fending off a late Purdue surge to beat the Boilermakers 88-79. Sophomore guard Marcus Foster led all scorers with 24 points on 9 of 14 shooting. Junior forward Stephen Hurt added 11 points off the bench, as four Wildcats finished in double figures.
The Wildcats will now face No. 2 Arizona in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow night.
Purdue faced a 15-point deficit with less than 15 minutes to play after trailing by as much as 20 points in the second half. However, an 18-12 run pulled the Boilermakers within single digits for the first time since the four-minute mark in the first half.
“We knew they were going to make a run, so it was all about just keeping our composure and keep battling,” Foster said. “We didn’t want the lead cut down too much where it would be a game where they can come back and take it away. But they made a run and we just stuck in it and played hard and we ended up getting the W.
Purdue then cut the lead down to five after three consecutive buckets from freshman center Isaac Haas and a deep three-pointer from sophomore guard Kendall Stephens. Haas and Stephens combined for 40 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
Gipson and Foster hit back-to-back field goals to put K-State back up by 10 points with two minutes to play. The Wildcats finished the game shooting 8 of 12 from the free-throw line to ice the nine-point win.
A high tempo start from both teams kept the contest close midway through the first half. Sophomore guard Nigel Johnson turned a two-point K-State lead into a 19-13 advantage after stealing two Purdue passes with 11:20 to play.
That sequence helped kick-start a 16-2 run late in half to give the Wildcats a comfortable 39-22 lead. Foster was good twice from behind the arc during the stretch. He finished the first half with 11 points on four of five shooting.
K-State went into the half with a 39-24 cushion. The Wildcats scored 17 points off 11 Purdue turnovers, while only coughing up the ball six times in the opening 20 minutes.
“It’s very satisfying,” Gipson said. “We felt really good about ourselves. We know what we can do now. We know what we’re capable of. We’ve just got to watch it, and take it to the next game. It’s always been just a play like that, especially on the defensive end.”
Purdue improved on that mark in the second half, only giving up one turnover in the final 20 minutes of action.
K-State finished the game shooting 53 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from behind the arc, all while allowing just nine turnovers themselves.