Lockdown Wildcat defense leads way to win

1/1/2014

By ARNE GREEN

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Telegram

MANHATTAN — The Kansas State Wildcats slammed the door on 2013 and threw away the key.

The Wildcats locked down defensively during a 20-point first-half run, holding George Washington scoreless for nearly 7 1/2 minutes Tuesday and rolled to a 72-55 victory over the Colonials at sold-out Bramlage Coliseum.

Shane Southwell scored a career-high 21 points, Marcus Foster added 15 and Thomas Gipson 12 to lead the Wildcats, who improved to 10-3 with their eighth straight victory. They open Big 12 play Saturday at home against No. 6-ranked Oklahoma State.

George Washington (11-2), which came in averaging 77.7 points a game, failed to reach 60 for the first time this season, shooting just 34 percent from the field.

Southwell, who scored 12 of K-State's first 14 points, had the first eight of the pivotal stretch that took the Wildcats from a nine-point deficit to a 26-15 advantage on Omari Lawrence's driving layup with 8:15 left in the half.

"It was an amazing feeling," said Southwell, who got it started with a baseline jumper and back-to-back 3-pointers. "I was more happy that the other guys stepped up.

"Jevon (Thomas) was getting in the lane, making passes to the right people and Nino (Williams) started making shots. Omari came in and grabbed three big rebounds for and that energy just started flowing."

The Wildcats needed an energy boost after George Washington came out on fire, knocking down seven of its first nine shots to lead 15-6 on Kethan Savage's jumper with 15:25 left in the half.

That was Bruce Weber's message when he called timeout to stop the bleeding.

"I said, 'What the heck's going on. We've been one of the best defensive teams and these dudes are just picking us (apart)' " Weber said. "They beat us on everything and I don't know if we weren't ready to play or something, but we definitely picked it up."

Gipson spoke up as well.

"Gipson, we got in the huddle and he told us, 'We need stops,' and that's something we're big on," Southwell said. "Early, I think they had 15 in the first four minutes, so we just needed to get back to what we do best, and that's playing defense."

Savage, who led GW with 14 points, finally broke the Colonials' scoring drought after 7 minutes, 25 seconds, at the 8-minute mark. But K-State still led 43-30 at intermission and opened the second half with a layup and 3-pointer from Foster to go up 18.

George Washington got no closer than 15 the rest of the way.

Thomas, a freshman point guard playing just his second game since becoming eligible at the semester break, did not score but had six assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes off the bench for the Wildcats. Williams scored eight of his nine points in the first half.

"We all played as a team," said Gipson, who was 5 of 6 from the field, hit 2 of 3 free throws and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. "(The bench) provides a lot of depth to our team."

"The teams we've played, I don't think they've had a lot of depth. Once one of us gets tired we sub him out and know we're not going to be skipping a beat."

K-State got 15 points from the bench to nine for George Washington and also outrebounded the Colonials, 37-33.

The victory allowed the Wildcats to fulfill a goal Weber set after they went 1-2 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and left the island with a 3-3 record.

"I don't usually look ahead, but I knew we had seven games in December and five were going to be at home and the Wichita game against Gonzaga and Tulane (in New York)," Weber said. "I just said our goal right now, just to get ourselves back in contention for postseason play, has got to be go undefeated in December."

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