MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State is far from a perfect basketball team, but the Wildcats occasionally appear flawless inside Bramlage Coliseum.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
A 74-57 victory over No. 15 Texas on Saturday was one of those occasions.
The Wildcats were dominant.
“They beat us in every way you can be beat,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “They played harder, they played with more energy, they were more physical – any category you want to ask me about, they were better … They really deserved to win. I don’t think the score is indicative of how badly they beat us.”
That’s telling, considering K-State raced to a 39-18 halftime lead and cruised to a surprisingly easy win.
Remember, this was supposed to be a battle. Texas, 18-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12, entered the day as one of the nation’s hottest teams. It had won seven straight, including four victories over ranked opponents, and it owned sole possession of second place in the Big 12.
The Wildcats entered the day having lost three of four, including a heartbreaker at Texas. But none of that mattered. K-State, 16-7 and 6-4, made the Longhorns look like the team that lost their top four scorers in the offseason and was expected to struggle.
“It was one of those days,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “It was obviously a special day. We were in a zone. It’s shooting, but it’s really the energy and the excitement and the passion. The first group did it and the second group did it. We got going and we played off the crowd.”
Indeed, they looked energized the moment they stepped foot on their home floor. Bruce Weber has turned Bramlage Coliseum into a fortress, guiding K-State to a 28-2 home record in his first two seasons, and that didn’t change against Texas.
Freshman guard Marcus Foster benefited most from the friendly venue. Something good seemed to happen every time he touched the ball. He scored a career-high 34 points and had the student section chanting his name in the second half. He did most of his work from the three-point line, making five three-pointers. But he was effective everywhere, making 13 of 16 shots.
“I just relaxed and stayed with my shot and got myself going on defense at first,” Foster said. “It’s just one of them days. Today, I was on that magic level.”
Foster is the third K-State true freshman to top 30 points and the first do to it since Michael Beasley in 2008.
Weber said he had a feeling Foster was headed for a big day. Foster has spent much of the last month playing with an injured finger on his shooting hand, but it healed in time for him to score 23 points at West Virginia. With a full week in between games, Foster looked like a new player in practice.
Then he took the court and scored K-State’s first eight points and played a role in K-State’s first 15. He scored 10 points and had two assists.
That led to more and more confident looks. Foster has a reputation for taking bad shots — he entered the day shooting 40.1 percent from the field — but that wasn’t the case here.
“He has shot 16 shots before, but he hasn’t made them like that,” Weber said.
Weber was later asked if he thought Foster was the most valuable freshman in the Big 12. His response: “If he plays like that, he is.”
Added junior forward Thomas Gipson: “He is an elite scorer and people should be on the lookout for him.”
Foster picked a perfect time to play his best. With the win, the Wildcats head into a key game against Kansas on ESPN’s “Big Monday” with much-needed momentum.
Of course, he had help from several teammates. Will Spradling had nine points, while Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson and Nino Williams all scored eight.
K-State also played impressive defense, limiting Texas to a season-low 57 points.
Starters Shane Southwell and Gipson were quieter than usual, combining for five points, but neither of them played more than 23 minutes.
Weber wanted to give his players as much rest as possible heading into a quick turnaround. That’s a luxury he had, because the Wildcats were simply too good to beat. His hope is that the Wildcats play this well again when the Jayhawks come to town.
It happens from time to time at home.
“This showed that we can compete whenever we play with enthusiasm and our defense is great,” Gipson said. “I feel like we can play with any team in the country the way we played today.”