It’s a funny thing about the type of late-game struggles that have seemed to plague K-State coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats recently.
“If we’d done some of the little things - the energy things - then the end of the game wouldn’t of mattered,” Weber said soon after K-State finished off a 74-57 dismantling of No. 15 Texas on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
There was no sign of the recent holes the Wildcats were forced to try to climb out of in losses at Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia. K-State jumped all over the Longhorns from the outset.
Freshman forward Wesley Iwundu nabbed steals on three of Texas’ first four possessions, twice finding fellow frosh Marcus Foster for transition 3-pointers.
“Somehow I always see him when I go to the hole,” said Iwundu, who had a game-high eight assists to go with eight points. “I don’t know why the defense helps off on him when he is the best shooter on the team. He’s just always open when I go to the rim.”
Moment’s later he hit Foster again - this time in the half court - for a ferocious two-handed alley-oop that brought an already raucous K-State crowd into an even further frenzy.
The Longhorns were shell-shocked, and the Wildcats led 8-2 at the under-16 timeout.
“We have been begging, pleading to the guys just to play with great energy and passion, and they did it,” Weber said. “They shared the basketball, we were patient, we made good shots, but again the big thing was the defense.”
Foster, whose game-high 34 points drew most of the attention on the day, was a big part of that. He guarded Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor for much of the first half, holding him to just two points and no assists while Taylor committed three turnovers as K-State poured it on early.
The Wildcats forced Texas into just 5-of-20 shooting in the first half while turning the Longhorns over 10 times in 28 possessions. They scored 15 points off of turnovers with 10 of those coming on fast breaks.
K-State grew its lead to as much as 23 points after Nino Williams scored inside to make it 37-14 with 2:03 before halftime.
K-State bigs Thomas Gipson and D.J. Johnson were strong inside forcing Cameron Ridley into 2-of-7 shooting and five turnovers on the game. As a team the Longhorns were a frigid 13-of-42 on 2-point attempts.
“It was a big step, it shows we can compete whenever we play with enthusiasm,” said Gipson, who also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. “If our defense is great, I’m pretty sure that we can play with anyone in the country.”
K-State shot 53 percent from the field against a Texas defense that came in tops in the Big 12, holding conference opponents to less than 40 percent from the field.
“I hope we can carry that energy into Monday, but for now we just have to enjoy this and get ready for Kansas through tomorrow and Monday night,” Weber said.