Kansas State beats No. 21 Gonzaga 72-62
12/21/2013 11:07 PM
05/16/2014 11:06 AM
David Stockton was the only person standing between Marcus Foster and the play of his life.
He didn’t stand a chance.
Foster, a Kansas State freshman guard, grabbed a pass on the wing, took two steps and soared through the air. Stockton, a Gonzaga senior guard, positioned himself to take a charge, but it was no use. Foster sailed over him and threw down a thunderous dunk that brought the crowd at Intrust Bank Arena to its feet.
It was the type of play that quickly went viral on social media, with fans watching at home sharing replays and pushing for it to be named ESPN’s Play of the Day.
It was also the type of play that up-and-coming teams make on their way to statement victories.
Such was the case Saturday, as K-State defeated No. 21 Gonzaga 72-62 in front of 13,224 fans at Intrust Bank Arena.
It was the Wildcats’ first victory over a ranked team this season and their sixth straight win.
“I just took off and dunked it,” explained Foster, who scored 14 points.
“That might be a ‘SportsCenter’ moment,” added K-State coach Bruce Weber.
“Plays like that always get your team more energized,” said senior Shane Southwell, who scored 11 points, who got the assist on the big dunk. “It builds team morale. (Foster) is really athletic, so I knew that once he got in the motion and he was going to jump it was over for Stockton.”
The same could have been said for Gonzaga (10-2).
Foster’s dunk came with 15 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the second half, and it gave K-State (8-3) a 40-32 lead.
The Wildcats had relied on their defense up to that point. But that moment signaled a change. They could score, too.
“We made some strides offensively,” Weber said.
The biggest came in the turnover department. K-State had only four, while piling up 15 assists and making 44 percent of its shots. Four players — Wesley Iwundu, Thomas Gipson, Southwell and Foster — reached double figures, and nine players scored.
For a team that entered the game averaging 66 points and 13.2 turnovers, it was a recipe for success.
“It was a great team win. There were a lot of people who could have been player of the game,” Weber said. “Probably the key to the game was our bench. It was just a great team win and hopefully it is something that they can enjoy but then also build on.”
The Wildcats showed they meant business from the get-go, jumping to an 8-2 lead with some of their finest plays of the season. They also took a 29-24 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs entered the game averaging 87.5 points behind star guard Kevin Pangos, but K-State forced Gonzaga to play at its pace.
Senior guard Will Spradling held Pangos scoreless in the first half, and backcourt teammate Gary Bell didn’t score, either.
“We have done a pretty good job of locking people down. We take pride in it,” Weber said. “We have had to do it with a lot of team defense. I am proud of it. I hope the kids are proud of it. I hope they keep buying into it, because it has to be our foundation.”
Gonzaga was unable to get into any kind of a rhythm. The loss of starting forward Sam Dower, who was averaging 14.6 points, to a back injury didn’t help, either. By game’s end, the Bulldogs had committed a season-high 12 turnovers.
“We knew it was going to be a tough, physical matchup,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “That is how Bruce’s teams always play. I liked how we fought through adversity. … But we just could not get enough stops. We could not make enough plays. … They don’t play as fast as we like to play. We played at their tempo.”
Still, Gonzaga fought back in the second half, oddly playing its best immediately following Foster’s dunk. The Bulldogs quickly turned an eight-point deficit into a 48-47 lead with 10:51 left, but the Wildcats were too strong down the stretch.
Behind 14 points from Foster and Gipson and 13 points from Iwundu, K-State surged ahead when it counted most. The Wildcats were at their best in the final six minutes, scoring eight straight points to take a 66-54 lead with 54 seconds remaining.
“Our confidence was there before the game,” Gipson said. “But as time starting winding down we realized we could actually win. People came up and made plays.”
That finish will help the Wildcats in their next game against Tulane in Brooklyn and in conference play, which starts on Jan. 4.
Before Saturday, K-State was one of the few teams in the Big 12 not exceeding preseason expectations.
Now it looks dangerous.
“Each game we step on the court and we come closer together,” Gipson said. “I think people are noticing. I know we are noticing. Practices are becoming better and better. We are becoming a true team.”