Iwundu makes statement in opening win

Junior forward Wesley Iwundu sinks a soaring dunk following a steal from a Maryland Eastern Shore player in the second half of the men's basketball game against UMES on Nov. 13, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. K-State defeated University of Maryland Eastern Shore 80-53. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

The Wesley Iwundu that showed up in Bramlage Coliseum Friday night is the one that the K-State basketball team needs every night this season.

Junior forward Iwundu had his fourth career double-double and a career-high 23 points for the Wildcats in their 80-53 win over Maryland Eastern Shore Friday night inside Bramlage Coliseum.

“I am pretty excited for it,” Iwundu said in a press conference. “I wanted to come out and make a statement, not for myself but just for our team. It was a really good progression game going in for the first game of the season. We still have a lot of work to do but it will keep getting better.”

K-State struggled through most of the first half, but found a way to escape with a 14-point lead.

Freshman forward Dean Wade started off right with a dunk in the first 17 seconds of the game.

The Hawks took an early four-point lead in the first half by the first media timeout. The Wildcats scored eight points in a row to take a 13-9 lead and didn’t lose the lead after that point in the game.

The second half was all Wildcats as they scored 45 of their 80 points in the half.

It wasn’t until over halfway through the half that the Wildcats really started to play with great execution. With seven minutes left in the game, the Wildcats pushed the lead to 64-45. They had their biggest lead of the night with less than two minutes left when they led 80-50.

Another highlight for the first game was seeing junior forward D.J. Johnson on the floor for the first time since his injury on March 22, 2014 in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky.

“Well it has been a long time, he did not get on the court, it was 16 months without basketball,” head coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “One of the coaches had a stat, it was 602 days since his last game … He has had two surgeries to boot, and he has really had a lot of emotional ups and downs … I think he was worried. Some of it was mental and some of it was physical. I said, ‘You owe it to yourself. You have come so far and work so hard and been so patient. You have to give it a shot.’”

Upon Johnson’s return to the game, the faithful Wildcat fans let him know they were happy to see him back on the hardwood.

“There were just chills, I was glad to be back,” Johnson said. “It has been a long road, and I am just glad I got blessed with the opportunity to see the floor again.”

Johnson had a solid return with five points, six blocks and two steals in the 14 minutes he played.

“I have not been out there in a while and it was good to get back out on the floor,” Johnson said. “Especially with guys that mean a lot to you and a great coaching staff. It felt good.”

Senior guard Justin Edwards and freshman guard Barry Brown each had 17 points in the win.

The Wildcats will be at home for their second game of the regular season today when they host Columbia University at 8 p.m. inside Bramlage Coliseum.

“We have to come out with the same defense that we are known for in good games, and I think the rest will take care of itself,” Iwundu said. “We cannot underestimate anyone because we know how good this team is. We just need to play our game and play well on defense, and I think it should be a pretty good game.”