Late South Carolina State rally not enough to upset Wildcats

K-State senior guard Justin Edwards goes for a basket during the basketball game between K-State and South Carolina State on Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum. K-State defeated the Bulldogs 68-66. (George Walker | The Collegian)

Coming off a near-upset of highly ranked North Carolina, coach Bruce Weber said he was aware of a potential letdown game as a 3-3 South Carolina State took the floor against K-State on Sunday afternoon.

Not even Jedi mind tricks could quickly put the game in the Wildcats’ favor, as K-State withstood a late SCSU rally to move to 5-1 on the season with a 68-66 victory.

“You are going to have games like this,” Weber said following the contest. “Although you always hope it does not happen, we talked about it a lot after the North Carolina game in Kansas City. I thought we had a bit of a hangover with young players and their first time home with Thanksgiving.”

The Wildcats had not shaken off the rust from what was left of their Thanksgiving break. With early baskets from freshman forward Dean Wade and junior forward Wesley Iwundu, the game turned sloppy quickly as both teams traded fouls and turnovers. Midway through Sunday’s frustrating contest, Weber took out his frustrations out on the clipboard to wake his team up from the lull they had slipped into.

“Basically, we just have to pick it up,” senior guard Justin Edwards said. “If we are making him get to the point where he is that mad, then we are obviously doing something wrong. Basically, just pick it up, come out and get after it and hopefully get the lead back.”

It was apparent that Edwards was listening because he finished with a team-high 18 points in the contest. Three other Wildcats joined him in double figures, including senior forward Stephen Hurt who finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds and 10 points. Wade and Iwundu chimed in with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Although the Wildcats got scoring from their key players, it was the scoring from South Carolina State that kept fans on the edge of their seats. Two players in particular gave the Wildcats issues most of the day. South Carolina State’s Ed Stephens and Eric Eaves went 20-plus in the scoring column. Stephens led all scorers with 24 points on the afternoon, including 5-9 from 3-point range.

It was not enough, however, as the Wildcats strung together late scores to keep the Bulldogs at bay and possibly kickstart a new winning streak.

“We thought with their size and their struggle to shoot the ball from the perimeter early in the season,” SCSU coach Murray Garvin said. “We thought that playing zone was the best opportunity to match up with them. For 40 minutes I thought we did an excellent job following the game plan.”

Up next for K-State is a trip to Athens, Georgia, to face the University of Georgia Bulldogs at 6 p.m. Friday.