When the Kansas State men’s basketball team needed a spark on Friday, the Wildcats constantly turned to their fresh faces.
Three of K-State’s four freshmen combined to score 38 points, as the Wildcats topped Pittsburg State 75-54 in an exhibition game at Bramlage Coliseum.
The season opener is next Friday at home against Northern Colorado at 8 p.m.
Freshman point guard Nigel Johnson scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats. Another freshman, Marcus Foster had 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Wesley Iwundu added 10 points.
“They all got double figures,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “Nigel, I love the rebounds, Marcus finally got some rebounds. You know, some good things from all of those guys.”
K-State also got quality minutes from junior Nino Williams, who had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Shane Southwell scored 10 points.
K-State got off to a sluggish start, trailing 7-3 after the first 5 minutes. That’s when the Wildcats sparked a 17-2 run, with 13 points coming from the freshmen trio.
With the clock winding down and the Wildcats leading by 13, Iwundu pulled up from 3 and knocked down one of K-State’s four treys on the night, just before time expired. K-State led 38-22 at the break.
The Gorillas had chances to chip away at the lead in the second half, but the Wildcats always found a way to answer back. The biggest run at the lead came with less than 10 minutes to play when Pittsburg State used a 15-2 run to pull within 13 points with 7:02 remaining.
But the Wildcats went on a 9-2 run to push the lead back to 20 points. The Gorillas never recovered.
In his debut as the team’s starting point guard, senior Will Spradling finished 0 for 4 from the floor with four fouls.
Weber said Spradling is typically solid for the Wildcats, but they will need more from him going forward.
The NCAA’s new rules regarding fouls stole the spotlight Friday night, as K-State was called for 31 fouls. There were 61 fouls called between both teams.
Weber said K-State will have to learn to adjust to the officiating better than it did Friday.
“It’s there to stay — you’ve got to deal with it,” Weber said. “Somebody’s got to figure out, what do you do when people put their shoulder down and drive into you, because you’ve got to be able to hold your ground a little bit.”
K-State forced the Gorillas into 20 turnovers, while Pittsburg State managed just three assists. K-State was the more efficient team with 16 assists to 11 turnovers.
Gipson doesn’t play
Presumed starting forward Thomas Gipson did not play for the Wildcats on Friday due to an unspecified injury.
But beyond that, Gipson was also nowhere to be seen inside Bramlage.
Asked about the injury, Weber said the junior is among many that have been banged up.
Asked to elaborate on why Gipson wasn’t with the team for the game, Weber repeated the fact that the junior was unavailable.
“He’s a day-to-day guy and we’ll see what happens,” Weber said. “I hope no one else gets it.”
Gipson’s absence left the Wildcats extremely undersized, especially after DJ Johnson went to the bench with two fouls after just 5 minutes on the floor. K-State narrowly won the rebounding battle, 48-46.