Kansas State was hurting for a win of any kind entering Monday night’s Big 12 home game. Not as if the Wildcats needed extra motivation for a win to break their slump, but they were also playing heated in-state rival Kansas. Bruce Weber’s ballclub broke out of their slump and shot the ball efficiently in a 70-63 conference win over the No. 8 Jayhawks.
The win over Kansas breaks a recent slump for Kansas State, who had lost seven of its last eight games entering Monday night. Nigel Johnson scored 20 points off the bench and battled cramps to lead the Wildcats (14-15, 7-9) who were greeted by students storming the floor after the win.
Nino Williams added 15 points and Thomas Gipson scored 12 points as Kansas State shot 47 percent (25-for-53) from the field and 84 percent (16-for-19) from the free-throw line.
While the Jayhawks had a strong outing from junior forward Perry Ellis, who finished with 24 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. also added 14 points, but other regular contributors struggled for Kansas.
Point guard Frank Mason (four points) was only 1-for-8 from the field and Brannen Greene (seven points) was held without a 3-pointer for the second time in third games, both Kansas losses.
This was an off-night for the Jayhawks (22-6, 11-4) in-part thanks to a talented, but underachieving, Kansas State team coming into focus and making plays. Although the Wildcats are under .500, they’re still a credible and dangerous threat to pick someone off in the Big 12 Tournament. They’ve beaten Oklahoma, Kansas and Baylor in Big 12 play and shown they can hang with the best in the league.
Kansas needs consistency from role players like Mason and Greene while guys like Wayne Selden (seven points) could also stand for more assertive performances. The trio of Cliff Alexander, Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor provided minimal production.
Bill Self’s team can’t breathe easy down the stretch either as they host Texas and West Virginia before closing on the road at Oklahoma. With Iowa State right behind them for the Big 12 lead, this race will be fun to track down the stretch.
Kansas State’s star guard finish with just 14 points but made the two biggest shots of the game as the Wildcats went into Norman and knocked off No. 16 Oklahoma, 66-63. With just 4.1 seconds left in overtime, Foster drilled a game-winning, pull-up three over two defenders:
The only reason that Kansas State was in overtime was because Foster made a tough floater in traffic with five seconds left at the end of regulation to tie the game at 55.
The difference from last Saturday could not be more drastic. In a loss at Oklahoma State, Foster was relegated to the bench after poor play and a poorer attitude. He sulked his way through a 61-47 loss, playing just 14 scoreless minutes, but Bruce Weber made his point. As we wrote Thursday, Foster had two terrific days of practice and ended up scoring 23 points — while coming off the bench — in a 58-53 win at TCU on Wednesday night.
Making Saturday’s performance more impressive is the fact that Foster got himself into foul trouble early in the game, sitting out much of the first half and a significant part of the second half after picking up his third foul with 19 minutes left.
This win is huge for Kansas State’s NCAA tournament hopes. They were one of the nation’s most disappointing teams during non-conference play and, with losses to Long Beach State and Texas Southern, have a ton of ground to make up. A road win against a team as good as Oklahoma is a good way to start.
1. Kadeem Allen, Arizona: The NJCAA National Player of the Year tallied 1,425 career points in his two first-team All-American seasons at Hutchinson Community College (Kansas). While the 6-foot-3 power guard likely won’t be in the starting five, he will a key scoring option coming off the bench. This past season with the Blue Dragons, he averaged 25.9 points per game.
2. Cinmeon Bowers, Auburn: An NCAA show-cause penalty didn’t stop Bruce Pearl from landing one of the top JuCo recruits in the country this past spring. The former Florida State signee averaged 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds last season at Chipola Junior College (Florida) The Tigers lose their top scorer and their top rebounder from last season’s 14-16 team. Bowers can help in those departments, especially on the glass, where Auburn had one of the worst rebounding teams in the SEC.
3. Josh Gray, LSU: No Andre Stringer and no Anthony Hickey this season for an LSU program looking to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. At Odessa College last season, Gray averaged 33.8 points and 5.9 assists per game. The former Texas Tech floor general, who averaged 9.3 points a night in 2012-2013, is joined by UNC Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby. The brand-new back court should compliment the frontline of sophomores Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin.
4. Jordan Goodman, New Mexico: After three commitments and a stint in Harcum College (Pennsylvania), the 6-foot-9 Goodman is set to begin his first season with the reigning Mountain West tournament champion. Goodman, a first-team All-American, has yet to be cleared for full-contact drills after having knee surgery this summer, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
5. Stephen Hurt, Kansas State: The former Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year used a year at Northwest Florida State to catapult himself into a highly-sought after forward. After committing to K-State, he’ll join a team looking to push back up the Big 12 Conference standings. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in his lone season in the JuCo ranks after transferring from Lipscomb.
6. Trahson Burrell & Chris Hawkins, Memphis: Josh Pastner brought in several JuCo recruits who could be contributors this season. The 6-foot-7 Burrell was cleared last month after posting 25.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game at Lee College (Texas). Hawkins, a JuCo forward, averaged 12.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for the Tigers in their four games in Canada this summer.
7. Ivan Cruz Uceda, Miami: At 6-foot-10 Uceda gives the ‘Canes an inside presence. The ex-Harcum forward made an immediate impact on the glass in Miami’s trip to Spain, pulling down 11.0 boards per game. Uceda’s debut with Miami will be delayed until the second semester due to an NCAA rule.
8. Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati: Mick Cronin needs to replace the production left behind by Justin Jackson on the Cincy frontline. The 6-foot-10 forward Ellis, back in Bearcat uniform, averaged 14.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks as a first-team All-American at Trinity Valley Community College (Texas). He arrives in Cincinnati with another JuCo big, Coreontae DeBerry.
9. Dwayne Benjamin & Michael Chandler, Oregon: Three players dismissed and two more failing to enroll leaves plenty of opportunities for newcomers to make an impact on this Oregon team. The 6-foot-10 Chandler, a former four-star recruit, is the projected starting center while Benjamin can help out on the wing along with freshman Dillon Brooks.
10. Jeff Newberry, Oklahoma State: Phil Forte is back, but Marcus Smart and Markel Brown leave big holes to fill. Insert JuCo guard Jeff Newberry and LSU transfer Anthony Hickey. The 6-foot-2 Newberry could end up playing either guard position this season for Travis Ford’s new-look perimeter.
TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Sam Cassell Jr., UConn: Son of the longtime NBA point guard adds depth to the UConn back court. Cassell was a first-team All-American in his only season at Chipola.
Gary Payton II, Oregon State: The son of the Hall of Famer enrolls as his father’s alma mater, where after a coaching change he will be looked upon to contribute right away.
Kevin Punter, Tennessee: The State Fair Community College product committed to Tennessee and new head coach Donnie Tyndall. Punter averaged 20.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
Torian Graham and Devonta Pollard, Houston: The two-time N.C. State commit is joining Kelvin Sampson at Houston. Graham was once ranked No. 67 overall by Rivals. Former McDonald’s All-American and Alabama forward Devonta Pollard is also an addition for the Cougars this season.
Carlos Morris, Minnesota: The 6-foot-5 combo guard averaged 14.7 points 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game for Chipola. The former Rivals 150 guard can crack the Golden Gophers’ starting five.
Tom “Bush” Wamukota, Wichita State: The Shockers have a pair of All-American-caliber guards, but the 6-foot-11 Wamukota could be a lift on the frontline alongside Darius Carter.
Keith Thomas, St. John’s: The nation’s leading rebounder this past season at Westchester Community College (New York) hauled in 15.7 boards per game in addition to his 15.3 points a contest.
Willie Atwood, Arizona State: A season after returning to the NCAA tournament, the Sun Devils will bring in seven newcomers, four of whom are from the JuCo ranks. The 6-foot-8 Atwood was a All-American honorable mention selection, averaging 20.8 points per game for Connors State College (Oklahoma).
Dan Hanner, who crunches numbers over at RealGM.com, puts out one of my favorite columns of the year when he breaks down the offensive and defensive efficiencies of teams that suffer serious injuries throughout the season.
You can read it here and here. It’s worth your time.
Some of the most interesting numbers that Hanner produced:
Offensively, Kansas State is significantly better with Jevon Thomas in the lineup even though Thomas has been utterly atrocious shooting and scoring the ball. The reason for this is Thomas’ ability to create offense for others. Case in point: he was 1-for-6 from the floor in the win over West Virginia, but he had eight assists and no turnovers and took the pressure to create off of guys like Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster.
On paper, it looks like Creighton is significantly worse defensively and significantly better offensively without Grant Gibbs in the lineup. Those numbers are a bit skewed because of a blowout win over Butler at home and a blowout loss to Providence on the road. There’s an argument to be made that Creighton is better offensively with Devin Brooks getting more minutes, but where the Bluejays miss Gibbs is with his toughness and his leadership. He’s a presence. He’s not going to be intimidated going on the road to play Providence or Villanova or Marquette, and he’s not going to let his teammates be intimidated, either.
“Notre Dame has been playing like the 109th best team in the nation with [Jerian] Grant out,” Hanner wrote. Yikes.
With point guard Angel Rodriguez deciding to transfer after posting averages of 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game last season, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber needed an answer at the point as his Wildcats look to at the very least duplicate their accomplishment of winning a share of the Big 12 regular season title. One played expected to be in the mix at the point is freshman Jevon Thomas, who joined the program back in January but did not take the floor.
And it seems as if Thomas will have to wait a little longer to make his Wildcat debut, as it was reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com that the 6-foot Queens, N.Y. native will not be eligible to play in games until the Wildcats face Gonzaga on December 21. Thomas averaged 15 points and seven assists per game at St. John’s Northwest Military Academy last season, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the National Prep School Invitational in Providence, R.I.
“He is the type of player with really good quickness and the ability to push the ball and create for others,” Weber said of Thomas when the signing was officially announced. “He also gives us some quality depth at the guard position. We believe he has the ability to become a lockdown defender as he develops as a basketball player.”
With Thomas out of the fold for the time being the expectation is that senior guard Will Spradling will assume the point guard responsibilities during the early portion of the Wildcats’ schedule. Spradling averaged 7.4 points and 2.4 assists per game last season, and he’s been a dependable option on the perimeter for both Weber and (prior to him) Frank Martin.
With just three players taller than 6-6 who have eligibility past the 2013-14 season on the roster, the Dayton Flyers could use some additional size in its 2014 recruiting class. And that’s exactly what head coach Archie Miller has gained, as 6-11 center Steve McElvene announced his decision to verbally commit to the Atlantic 10 school.
McElvene played at New Haven High School in Indiana last year, helping lead his team to an 18-5 record. On a team that featured Notre Dame signee V.J. Beachem, McElvene made a name for himself as the season progressed and accounted for 39 points, 33 rebounds and ten blocked shots in two Indiana Class 4A regional games.
McElvene played with highly-touted prospects JaQuan Lyle (verbally committed to attend Louisville) and Trey Lyles (one of the top uncommitted players in the 2014 class) this summer with the Spiece Indy Heat program, averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on the Nike EYBL circuit.
As McElvene enjoyed more success on the court, programs such as Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Purdue became even more interested in his services. But in the end the big man chose to commit to Dayton after taking an official visit to the school last weekend.
McElvene joins a front court that in 2014 will include Alex Gavrilovic, Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott, with Robinson (6.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) being the most productive of the three in 2012-13. With 6-7 forward Devin Oliver (8.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) entering his senior season the Flyers needed someone who can help them on the glass in 2014, and the addition of McElvene will help in this regard.