Three thoughts from Kansas States 72-66 victory against Oklahoma on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum:
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
1. Wesley Iwundu is growing up.
This was a very important game for Iwundu. K-States starting forward hit the freshman wall coaches always talk about a few weeks ago. And when he hit it, he hit it hard. Iwundu had been as quiet as a mouse since scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds against Gonzaga. In the five games leading up to Tuesdays win over Oklahoma, he averaged 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds. He essentially disappeared in games against TCU and Kansas. Those performances were clearly fresh on the minds of K-State fans, who urged him not to attempt an open three in the first half Tuesday. Funny thing is, those same fans cheered when he knocked down a late three-pointer (his third of the game) to spark a 16-4 run that led to K-States victory. Iwundu has never been known as a shooter, but he made several key shots in this game. Perhaps more importantly, he grabbed vital rebounds in crunch time. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds for his best game of the season. I have been absent the past two games, Iwundu said. I had a talk with coach and he was just like, calm down and let the game come to me. I wasnt trying to force anything and just shot the ball with confidence.
2. K-State showed maturity by winning with Thomas Gipson on the bench most of the night.
Marcus Foster is the teams leading scorer, but Gipson is the guy who makes K-State go. When he missed games or was recovering from a concussion early in the season, the Wildcats lost. When he was at full strength and putting up double-doubles, the Wildcats won. On Tuesday, K-State finally won without Gipson playing at a high level. The junior forward fought foul trouble and finished with four points and six rebounds in 16 minutes. He made some huge plays in the final moments, but the Wildcats had to go without him most of the night. The fact that Nino Williams (10 points, nine rebounds), Shane Southwell (16 points, eight rebounds) and Iwundu combined for 37 points and 23 rebounds without him showed K-States toughness and maturity.
3. K-States NCAA Tournament resume is looking good now that it has defeated three ranked teams.
It wasnt long ago that K-States RPI was in the upper 80′s. That number is now down to No. 34. Beating Gonzaga, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma has significantly boosted the Wildcats NCAA Tournament resume. They still have work to do before they can be considered a lock for the Big Dance, but Tuesdays win over Oklahoma will help in their pursuit.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Shane Southwell 8.5.
Last game: 6. Average: 6.4.
Southwell gave K-State a big boost with 16 points and eight rebounds. This was one of his better games. Missing seven shots kept him from an even higher rating.
Nino Williams 8.
Last game: 7. Average: 6.3.
Williams fell a rebound shy of a double-double in his second consecutive quality game. Perhaps the best part of his night: free throw shooting. Williams went four for four from the foul line, and helped close out the game. Few saw it coming, but he is currently K-States top clutch free throw shooter.
Wesley Iwundu 7.5.
Last game: 4. Average: 5
Iwundu was efficient in 33 minutes and took what Oklahoma gave him. His three three-pointers were a surprise, considering he had made one in his previous 16 games, but his rebounds and smart passes werent.
Marcus Foster 7.5.
Last game: 4. Average: 7
Give Foster credit for making shots while battling injuries to his right finger and left ankle. He scored 18 points and sank three straight three-pointers in the first half, which led to a hot-shooting start for the Wildcats. Five assists was also a plus. But he struggled handling the ball, and lost five turnovers.
Will Spradling 7.
Last game: 5. Average: 5.6
Spradling made two three-pointers and got fouled while taking a third. That helped the senior guard score 10 points. He also had five assists and one turnover.
Jevon Thomas 4.5.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 5.8.
Thomas used his speed to impact the game and get to the rim for three points and four rebounds. He also made a steal. No assists was a negative.
Thomas Gipson 4.
Last game: 7. Average: 7.15.
This was Gipsons worst game since he scored two points and failed to grab a rebound against Charlotte. He had four points and six rebounds. Foul trouble was the main culprit. He had to spend most of the game on the bench, and looked out of rhythm when he got back on the floor. Still, he made some fine plays late when it mattered.
D.J. Johnson 3.5
Last game: 2. Average: 3.2.
He didnt do anything on offense, but he did block three shots while Gipson was on the bench.
Omari Lawrence 3.
Last game: 3. Average: 3.6.
Lawrence didnt impact the game while playing nine minutes.
Nigel Johnson 2.
Last game: 2. Average: 3.1.
Johnson has become nothing more than a change-of-pace guard behind Jevon Thomas and Will Spradling.