Ole Miss came into Bramlage Coliseum on Thursday night with a 6-0 start to the season and averaging 82 points per game. K-State was averaging just 66 points and in search of its first signature win. It got that win when the final buzzer sounded as the Wildcats held on to pull out a 61-58 victory and improve to 5-3 on the season.
Although K-State may get involved in a couple shoot-outs this season, the majority of wins will be ground out in low-scoring affairs. That was evident last night as Ole Miss, whose prior lowest scoring output of the season was its opener in which the Rebels netted 69 points, were held to just 58. Thomas Gipson dumped in 15 points, while freshman guard Marcus Foster continued to impress with 15 of his own. Shane Southwell was held to just eight, going just 2-10 (including 0-5 from behind the arc), but contributed four free throws, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Poor shooting continues to plague the Cats, as the team was held to just 36.5 percent from the field and a meager 25 percent from three point land. Ole Miss was a slightly better 37.9 percent overall but K-State’s aggressive, suffocating defense on the perimeter held the Rebels to just 16.7 percent from behind the arc.
One of the big stories of the game was the rotation. While Bruce Weber had been experimenting heavily and making a point to spread around the minutes, only one player came off the bench to meaningfully contribute on the night. Forwards Gipson (32 minutes) and Wesley Iwundu (38), along with guards Foster (37) and Southwell (38) all saw significant playing time. The only starter to see much of the bench was Will Spradling (21 minutes), as he struggled with foul trouble. The opening allowed Nigel Johnson to see 22 minutes of playing time, and he contributed six points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal without turning the ball over in relief.
The game was tight the entire way. A Marshall Henderson three tied the game at 49 with just over 5:30 left to play, and two more baskets had Ole Miss on a 9-1 run and a four-point lead with four minutes left to play. However, Mississippi couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, and let K-State take the game at the foul line. Despite hitting just 19 of 34 (a dreadful 56 percent), the Wildcats were put on the line five times in the final 3:45 (although the team only hit 5-9 attempts).
Henderson nailed a three pointer with 32 seconds left to play to close the lead to 59-58, but that was the closest his team would get. The Wildcats made a point to get Spradling the ball, knowing Ole Miss would foul, and he was sent to the line with 15 seconds left where he hit one attempt to extend the lead to 60-58. Henderson went for the win and missed a three with five seconds left, and Wesley Iwundu collected the rebound. Iwundu hit his first attempt for a 61-58 lead. He missed his second, but collected the rebound as time expired to secure the win.
K-State takes on 3-4 South Dakota on Tuesday in Manhattan, and then 3-3 Troy as a final tune-up before taking on #19 Gonzaga in Wichita.