Nigel Johnson scored 18 points to lead six Kansas State players in double figures as the Wildcats rolled to a 98-68 season-opening victory over Southern Utah before an announced crowd of 12,405 Friday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
The game was back and forth in the first five minutes with Southern Utah using the three-point basket to take leads of 7-4 and 10-9. However, K-State would keep pace with some three-point firepower of its own mainly from Sophomore Marcus Foster and while the score was tied at several different points during the first half, K-State would never trail again after the 15:26 mark.
After Utah’s A.J. Hess nailed his fourth three-pointer of the half and third in a row to tie the score at 24-24, K-State would take the lead for good on a free throw by Thomas Gipson who scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half. In the final 9:32 of the half, K-State would outscore the Thunderbirds 20-12 and take a 44-36 lead into intermission.
In the second half, the Cats kicked things into overdrive going on a 24-9 run to start the half and never looking back. With last year’s season-opening home loss to Northern Colorado on the minds of Coach Bruce Weber and returning players, K-State made sure there was no such drama this time around. The Wildcats’ largest lead of the night was 35 points at 94-59 before settling for the 30-point win.
The 98 points scored by Kansas State were by far the most in the Bruce Weber era and the highest point total since a 100-76 thrashing of North Florida at Bramlage on December 31, 2010. Other Wildcats in double figures with Johnson and Gipson included Foster and newcomer Tre Harris with 13 points apiece while fellow newcomers Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt added 11 each. Leading the way for the Thunderbirds was Hess with 16 points but he scored just four of those in the second half.
Kansas State (1-0) will be back on the Bramlage hardwood Monday night when they host UMKC in a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Kangaroos opened their season with a 69-61 upset of Missouri in Columbia Friday night spoiling Kim Anderson’s debut as the Tigers head coach.
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