At times on Tuesday, Washburn coach Bob Chipman was getting flashbacks of Jack Hartman’s days at Kansas State.
Chipman, who played at K-State for Hartman from 1971-73, marked himself as impressed with what new Wildcats coach Bruce Weber brought to the floor in an 81-61 win for K-State in exhibition play at Bramlage Coliseum.
“He’s going to do a great job here,” Chipman said. “We’ve had a long line of great coaches here. Weber I think is one of those coaches in a long line of great ones we’ve had here.”
Weber’s team made its mark from the get go, opening the game in style with a 22-2 run, capped by two 3s from Rodney McGruder and a pair of baskets by Nino Williams.
The Wildcats opened with a lineup that included both Jordan Henriquez and Adrian Diaz — both nearly 7-feet tall— that Chipman admitted caused a mismatch that was too hard for them to overcome in the first seven minutes.
But even when the Wildcats went to their bench, bringing in its first sub in Williams, K-State had an advantage. Williams, at 6-foot-5 created his own mismatch that led to a game-high 10 points and six rebounds in the first half.
Weber said the lineup that includes Diaz and Henriquez is a nice asset to have, but Williams gives them the changeup when teams want to player with smaller players and run the court against them.
“The big thing is who can guard when you go small ball, and that’s going to happen a lot early when you play some of these early teams,” he said. “Your so called mid-majors, they don’t have the 6-8, 6-9, and that’s where Nino comes in.”
Williams finished the game leading the Wildcats with 14 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes on the court. He also had two steals and two assists, with no turnovers.
“I just thought I was playing hard and I got open a couple times, I knocked down a couple shots,” Williams said. “I wasn’t looking for shots, I was just playing hard.”
Washburn would claw its way back into the game in the first half, starting with a 3 and a free throw from Will McNeill. The Ichabods went on a 9-2 run late in the first half to pull within 32-20, all fueled by missed shots and turnovers from K-State.
Chipman said his team didn’t seem to come to life until it was already too late.
“That one little spurt where they really got away from us, they made us turn it over, they hit some shots, they got up 20, and that’s pretty much it,” he said. “I was proud of our guys from that point on, I thought we started playing aggressive.”
Angel Rodriguez made a pair of free throws with less than five minutes to play in the half, sparking a 12-5 run to end the half, featuring six points from Williams.
The Ichabods would come as close as 13 points in the second half before the Wildcats put the game away with a 13-1 run to go ahead 66-41 with 10:25 left to play.
Four players finished in double figures, starting with Williams, and followed by Henriquez with 13 points, while McGruder and DJ Johnson had 10 a piece. Henriquez added nine rebounds, while Johnson had seven, as the Wildcats outrebounded Washburn 46-39.
Weber was happy with the post play.
“Nino has been very active for us, he gives us a different look,” he said. “Jordan had pretty good numbers. DJ Johnson just plays hard — I don’t think he knows what he’s doing but he plays hard. That’s positive.”
Absent of the posts for most of the game was sophomore forward Thomas Gipson, who started in 22 games last season. Gipson entered the game with 6:50 to play.
Weber said he has some work to do before he starts earning minutes.
“He just has to take care of business everyday, be consistent off the court, on the court, and when you do that, you’ll get consistent minutes,” he said.
One area Weber has harped on improving since arriving on campus in April, is free throws. With the opening of the Basketball Training Facility, Weber had hoped the team would improve at the free throw line.
But on Tuesday night, it was more of the same from the Frank Martin era of K-State basketball, as the team went 18-of-33 from the free throw line — shooting just 54 percent.
“I thought free throws, we’d been shooting pretty good in practice and some of the scrimmages, it was not very good,” Weber said. “You look at theirs also, I think you play so hard and they don’t have that game conditioning, it’s tough to go to the line when you’re tired and relax and make a shot. That’ll improve.”
Weber said overall he was pleased with how well the team reacted to playing a pretty good Washburn team. The Ichabods are picked to win the MIAA and open their season ranked No. 4.
“They’re good and we were leery,” he said. “I usually script minutes for the exhibition, but I didn’t do it. I told the coaches, ‘we got to get ready to play,’ but it ended up everybody got pretty good minutes, we still won by 20, came ready to play.
“They’re a smart team. They’re going to be a handful in their league and definitely I think they will go deep in the tournament.”