Sophomore Thomas Gipson took advantage of his first start of the season in Kansas State’s 72-53 victory over USC Upstate Sunday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum.
The 6-foot-7, 270-pound forward came up with big baskets and rebounds early in the game when the Wildcats were struggling against their non-conference foe from the Atlantic Sun.
Gipson, who was second in scoring for K-State with 11 points off 5-for-9 shooting and seven rebounds, gave a spark to the Wildcats with less than five minutes left in the first half. An offensive rebound and a tip-in under the bucket extended K-State’s slim 25-20 lead with 4:39 to go before the halftime buzzer, and a dunk just one minute later following a Martavious Irving steal gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the half since KSU opened the contest with a 4-0 lead moments after tip-off. After Gipson’s dunk, K-State found its rhythm and went into halftime with a 37-20 lead.
Gipson said head coach Bruce Weber told him his team needed a jolt when the Cats were struggling, and that he heard his coach loud and clear.
“After that timeout, coach Weber was saying he wanted energy and I took that as motivation,” Gipson said. “That was a really good team and it turned out positively for us.”
Weber said Gipson getting the start wasn’t a difficult choice.
“We could have started him anytime,” he said. “When we talk to opposing coaches after each game, they talk about how we keep throwing big bodies at them. Thomas has been pretty productive from the beginning, he has lost weight and he can score inside if he gets his body on someone. Once in a while he gets too far in the paint, like a lot of guys, he doesn’t let the game come to him sometimes. He needs to learn to throw it back out and get in a little deeper and set himself up for an easy shot. With 11 points and seven rebounds that’s a pretty good day for him.“
For Gipson, getting the start isn’t something he thinks about.
“Well, it is not really about starting for me. I always come in and make an impact whether I am starting or sitting on the bench. I just have the same mentality whether I am starting or not and that is what I did today.
“Everybody had a good week at practice. Me personally, I talked to my family and I don’t care about starting. It’s irrelevant. As long as you play hard you get to start the second half and if you play hard you get to stay in the game. If I don’t start, I’m still going to come out and play hard.”