WICHITA — Saturday’s game between Kansas State and No. 21 Gonzaga was billed as the second meeting between two heavyweight contenders, complete with corner introductions from a “ring announcer.”
The Wildcats came out with flurry of punches in both the first and second half, and after the Bulldogs evened it up late, K-State delivered the knockout punch with an 8-0 run to win 72-62 in the Wichita Wildcat Classic at Intrust Bank Arena.
It marked the second straight season that the Wildcats picked up a key win over a Top-25 team in December, after beating No. 8 Florida in Kansas City last year.
The Wildcats (8-3) opened the game on an 8-2 run, and scored five straight to end the half with a 29-24 advantage. And they really turned it up in the second half.
Shane Southwell scored on back-to-back attempts to stretch the lead to nine points, and after Gonzaga (10-2) cut the lead to four, Marcus Foster hit a 3 and then stole an inbound pass and made a layup to push the lead right back to nine points.
After Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos hit a 3, K-State freshman Marcus Foster found his way around the defense with a lane to the basket. Gonzaga’s David Stockton set his feet to take a charge and found himself the victim of a monster dunk that K-State coach Bruce Weber capped with a few words.
“I think that might be a SportsCenter moment,” Weber said.
Foster said he was just looking to make something happen after a poor first half that saw him make just 1 of 8 from the floor. He finished the game with 14 points.
“I thought I had a dunk so I took off, ” he said. “I didn’t think he was going to try to take a charge. Shane’s a good passer and he found me. I just took off and dunked it.”
Southwell, who said the game was “exactly like Florida” from last season, said Foster’s dunk, which put the Wildcats ahead 40-32, electrified the team.
“Plays like that always get your team more energized and builds team morale,” he said. “He’s really athletic so I knew that once he got in his motion to jump it was over for Stockton.”
Gonzaga didn’t go quietly after the dunk, though, coming back with quick baskets and a pair of 3s to tie the game at 46 with less than 13 minutes to play. From there, the teams locked up in a tight back-and-forth battle that didn’t find any separation until a pair of free throws from Wesley Iwundu and a basket from Thomas Gipson put K-State ahead by six with 7:12 to play.
After the Bulldogs drew back within four points, the Wildcats scored eight straight points, with six from Gipson to push ahead 66-54. Gonzaga never recovered.
“We did a nice job of fighting our way back and putting ourselves in position to win the game with five or six minutes left,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I think they just made the plays from that point forward.”
The final minutes of the game were boosted by a flurry of points from Gipson, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and eight in the last seven and a half minutes.
The junior forward got into foul trouble less than 10 minutes into the game and said he focused on helping his teammates score in the second half.
“I think one thing I had to do, that coaches really harped on, was continue to ball screen and roll and post deep if I get an opportunity,” he said. “Second half I really made an effort to do it, to get my teammates open and let them create.”
Wesley Iwundu finished in double figures with 13 points, scoring the last five to help the Wildcats put the game away. Shane Southwell finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Weber said he was also happy with the performance of his bench players, who combined for 17 points and posted invaluable minutes to spell the starters.
“Their bench was good and made some shots, but I thought DJ (Johnson) came in and got some rebounds, Nigel (Johnson) hit a big three, Omari (Lawrence) was solid, Nino (Williams) was really good,” he said. “It was just a great team win.”
The Wildcats held Gonzaga below its season average of 88 points per game, and have made a habit of holding teams to their season low in points, marking the seventh time they’ve done so this season.
Beyond that, the Wildcats held Gonzaga’s Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., two of its leading scorers, to no points in the first half.
“A great defensive effort,” Weber said. “Especially in the first half, when you hold Pangos and Bell, two veteran, seasoned guards, to nothing at halftime. And hold them to 24 — it’s pretty good.”
After K-State got out to an 8-2 lead to start the game, Gonzaga worked its way back to tie the game at 15. With the Wildcats leading 24-19, DJ Johnson attempted to block Gonzaga forward Sam Dower on a dunk, and Dower fell hard on his back.
Dower did not return to the game, and Few said trainers wanted to X-ray his spine to ensure he didn’t break or fracture any bones.
Despite the injury, the Bulldogs evened the game up at 24 before the Wildcats got a 3 from Johnson and a basket from Williams to lead by five at the half.
The Wildcats will head to Brooklyn, New York, this Saturday for a game against Tulane as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at the Barclays Center. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start on Fox Sports 1.
Thomas not suited up
Despite being eligible to play for the first time this season, freshman guard Jevon Thomas was not suited up for Saturday’s game.
Due to NCAA rules, Thomas could not practice with the team until the fall semester ended.
Also not dressed for the game for K-State was freshman forward Jack Karapetyan.