Marcus Foster lobbed the ball high above the rim, and Justin Edwards caught it. The result was a thunderous dunk that brought the crowd at Bramlage Coliseum to its feet on the opening possession of Kansas State’s 73-53 victory over Savannah State on Sunday.
It was a sign of things to come, just not immediately.
Though the Wildcats, 6-4, had their moments during a mostly care-free win over the Tigers, 3-8, of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, they never dominated against an opponent that had lost its previous two road games by an average of 38.5 points.
“Any win is good — one point or 20 points,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “But I think we hurt ourselves. That was my biggest thing. We keep making it tough on ourselves.”
The highlight moments belonged to senior forward Nino Williams, Foster and Edwards.
Williams continued to be a surprise as K-State’s most efficient scorer, finishing with a game-high 20 points on eight shots on top of seven rebounds.
“Nino has been very consistent,” Weber said. “He has been our best player. He plays happy, he comes to practice and plays with great energy. He has been banged up a little bit, but every day he gives his all. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Williams missed the Wildcats’ first two games because of an injury but has scored eight or more points in every game since. He is averaging nearly 15 points and nine rebounds in his last three games.
He credits a mind-set to rebound for his strong play.
“I practice hard and I have been here in the system for three years, so I just know little ways to get open and score,” Williams said. “… I just happen to get open shots and get easy baskets. My main focus has been to play hard and attack the boards.”
Foster had 13 points and seven assists, showing off his ball-distributing skills at point guard on top of his usual duties at shooting guard. And Edwards started the first and second half with dunks on his way to nine points.
There was also seldom-used guard Brian Rohleder, a walk-on. He was the first player off K-State’s bench, and he took advantage of his opportunity by drawing three charging fouls during his first 2 minutes on the floor. He went on to score two points in an expanded role, playing 16 minutes.
He may continue to play more in future games.
“He has outplayed everybody in practice,” Weber said. “If you play well in practice, you get to play and good things happen. That’s all it was. The other guys have to play better, and hopefully they will.”
A lack of contributors counteracted many of K-State’s positives.
Edwards couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, playing only 12 minutes.
Savannah State, ranked 313th nationally by college basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, created problems with its defense, trailing 30-23 at halftime and pulling to within single digits in the final 10 minutes.
K-State pulled away down the stretch for a comfortable victory, but the Wildcats walked away knowing they have work ahead as they prepare for their next game against Texas A&M on Saturday at the Sprint Center.
“We haven’t had that continuity,” Weber said. “We have to get better on defense without fouling and start making some better decisions, and we have got to do it quick, because obviously, the competition is about to get a lot better.”
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