Kansas State moves to 8-1 on the season with a 81-64 come-from-behind victory over Abilene Christian.
K-State fell behind quickly, down 23-10 at the 12-minute mark in the first half. Their struggles were most pronounced on the defensive front as Abilene Christian shot an astounding 75% (6-8) from beyond the arc.
But once again – when his team needed him most – senior guard Markquis Nowell stepped up. He gave the Wildcats much needed momentum with a quick jumper followed by a steal and offensive rebound that he dished to forward David N’Guessan for three points. Abilene Christian had no answer for guarding N’Guessan, who set a career-high with 16 points before the break.
K-State ended the half on a 21-6 run that gave them a 35-34 advantage.
“They [ACU] made six threes in the first half and we held them to one three the last 28 minutes,” head coach Jerome Tang said after the game. “That was the adjustment that the staff made so credit my staff, absolutely love those guys.”
The second half saw many parallels to the end of the first half as K-State tightened up on defense and created stops.
“They were driving us baseline to force a rotation…we just said we’re going to guard it one on one … if they finish at the rim that’s okay because that’s not what they wanted to do,” Tang said. “That allowed us to be a little quicker on our rotations and be there on the catch.”
Offensively, everybody who saw the floor was able to get involved because of Nowell’s playmaking ability.
“Their [ACU] defense was geared to stop Keyontae [Johnson] so wherever he was, no one was leaving there … somebody else is going to be open and it’s up to our guards to make the right read,” Tang said.
K-State never completely ran away with the game but kept a comfortable lead over their fellow Wildcats. Just before the eight-minute mark, Nowell – with the help of the backboard – connected with Johnson for another flashy dunk. K-State led 64-51.
Little changed over the final eight minutes en route to the K-State victory.
Nowell recorded 15 points and 12 assists, his second double-double on the season.
N’Guessan moved his career high to 26 points, shooting a perfect 9-9 on field goals.
“He [N’Guessan] is a competitor. He’s fierce. He does all the little things to help this team win and that’s why on nights like this he gets rewarded,” Nowell said after the game. “Any opportunity that we have to get him the ball…we try to do that as much as possible.”
Up next for the K-State Wildcats is Incarnate Word at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11, at Bramlage Coliseum.