Playing in front of a sparse crowd, the Kansas State men’s basketball team knew it would likely need to create its own energy on Sunday.
(Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson puts up a shot against Central Arkansas on Sunday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats won 87-54).
All the Wildcats needed was a 12-2 run to open the game, kick-starting big games from Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson in an 87-54 rout of Central Arkansas in Bramlage Coliseum.
Gipson scored the first six points of the game for K-State (4-3) and Southwell hit a 3 to put the team ahead 12-2 with 16:26 to play in the first half. By the 11:33 mark of the first half, Marcus Foster made a 3 to push the lead to 22-6.
Southwell led K-State with 19 points and six rebounds, while Gipson had 17 points and added six boards. The Wildcats outrebounded the Bears 52 to 22, including 23 offensive rebounds.
Gipson said the team did a good job of exploiting an advantage in the post.
“I felt like it was a little bit of a mismatch,” he said. “My main focus is to rebound more and not focus on the points during the game, but I can say the points came early in the game.
“We really just focused on rebounding. I know they are smaller than us but we still have a focus to put in the effort to rebound.”
Rebounding has often been the Wildcats’ killer this season, allowing other teams to dominate them with second-chance points. But K-State scored 19 to the Bears’ four, and Central Arkansas coach Clarence Finley said it was a big reason his team couldn’t stop the early K-State run, or the ones that came after.
“We expected a run but I thought we would shoot the ball better than we shot it,” Finley said. “K-State is a well-coached team and they move the ball around well. They kept getting second and third-chance shots because we don’t block out well.”
Even though the Wildcats have often been the smaller team on the court this season, and have had to go to even smaller lineups with Gipson and DJ Johnson in foul trouble, their size was the advantage this time.
Where K-State was small, the Bears were smaller. And K-State coach Bruce Weber said it allowed them to use Southwell more on the inside.
“They started small and I think they felt like they could be quick,” he said. “We switched everything with Shane, I think that kind of screwed them up. With offensive rebounds, we were able to be more forceful. We’ve put a lot of time into rebounding since the beginning of the year. Hopefully it’s paying off a little bit so we can be competitive on the boards every game.”
Southwell had 10 points by halftime, and most of his nine second half points came as part of an 11-2 run by he and Gipson in the first seven minutes of the second half. The run pushed the K-State lead to 56-27 with 13:54 to play. The senior forward finished 8 of 14 from the field.
Southwell, who has been inconsistent at times this season, said he put in extra time working on his shot in the last week.
“I just needed to get back to what I have been doing all of last year, coming into the gym and shooting,” he said. “Working with coaches and shooting a lot and doing the little things like weighted-ball shooting — it paid off today.”
(Kansas State’s Shane Southwell lays a shot in against Central Arkansas on Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum).
Gipson finished 7 of 13 and his size was too much for the Bears to handle on the inside. Over the last three games, Gipson has scored at least 17 points and been bigger on the boards for the Wildcats.
Weber said going forward, the coaching staff hopes he can continue to perform this way consistently.
“He is a forceful guy — with the less weight it makes him a more agile player,” Weber said. “Big thing with him is foul trouble. We have to make sure that he doesn’t get any cheap fouls because we need him in the game because he causes problems for opponents.”
The Bears used a quick six-point scoring burst late in the second half to pull within 25 points of the lead, but were outscored 14-5 the rest of the way.
Despite the way the Wildcats played on Sunday, Southwell said they have to play even better if they hope to be successful.
“I think we have a lot more potential,” he said. “I think we can improve on being more aggressive in the second half. We’ve been having a lot of letdowns in the second half, so that’s something that we need to improve on. In just over that break we have improved on our offense and our spacing and patience. Patience is one thing that we really need to work on, but I thought it was better today.”
With a nationally televised game against Ole Miss coming up on Thursday at 8 p.m. on ESPN 2, Weber said they have to play even better than they did against the Bears, including in the second half. The K-State coach felt his team often let its guard down and went into scoring lulls.
“In the second half, it seemed like we let up a bit,” he said. “With a team like Ole Miss, we can’t give them opportunities. It will be a big challenge for us. We have talked about continuing to make strides in December. It has got to be our month and we must take a huge step forward.”