Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson played with a heavy heart Wednesday night in his team’s 83-57 win against Texas in Bramlage Coliseum.
It was his stepsister’s birthday.
She died last April in a car accident.
“She was my motivation today, “ said Gipson, who scored a season-high 17 points in the win. “I use that as a reason to play hard. I should play like that everyday, and that’s really not an excuse for how I’ve been playing in these last recent games, or anything, but coach just told me if I want to play, that I just need to rebound and hedge and do the defensive principals that we have to do to win.
“I didn’t do that against Iowa State, and I just took it to myself that I have to do it this game.”
It turned out that Gipson was needed more than even he thought — especially early.
When K-State’s leading scorer Rodney McGruder was called for his second foul in as many minutes, the Wildcats looked to be in a vulnerable position.
McGruder sat on the bench for the opening half’s remaining 18 minutes.
It turned out, however, that K-State would be just fine, thanks to its bench play — especially the play of Gipson and Omari Lawrence.
Gipson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, was 7 of 10 from the floor and pulled down seven rebounds.
Lawrence, who went into the contest averaging just 2.4 points per game, totaled a career-high 12 points and a game-high six offensive rebounds.
Lawrence scored 10 points in the first half alone. The combination of Lawrence and Gipson gave K-State a decisive 38-19 lead at halftime.
The momentum continued in the second half.
“There was also great energy from (Omari) and Thomas,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. “We started (Jordan Henriquez). I just felt we needed a change and maybe get Thomas’ attention and give J.O. some confidence
“Omari came on the weak side and did some things that he has never done before.”
K-State sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez was high on the efforts from Lawrence.
“I think the bench came out with a lot of energy, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone come out and play as hard as Omari did coming off the bench for us,” said Rodriguez, who finished with 11 points and eight assists against the Longhorns. “I think his energy got us all going.”
Lawrence went into last night’s game averaging barely more than 10 minutes per game. He played 19 minutes against Texas.
“My teammates trusted me, and coach trusted me,” the junior said. “I just got out there and did good things. We just pushed the lead tonight and continued to play hard. Everything worked out for us.”