Charles Mann scored 17 points and Georgia outscored Kansas State 9-2 in the final 3:35, a stretch that included the game’s last seven points as the Bulldogs despite blowing a 15-point second half lead defeated the Wildcats 50-46 in a New Year’s Eve matinee Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Both teams started out sluggish combining for eight turnovers in the early going but it was Georgia who was able to grab an early 8-2 advantage before K-State knotted the score with a 6-0 run at 8-8 with 10:30 to go in the first half. Little did anyone in the building know that the Wildcats would end up scoring just four more points before halftime setting a new Bramlage Coliseum record for fewest first half points with 12 and drawing some boos from the usually enthusiastic and supportive crowd.
In the second half it looked like the Bulldogs, coached by Garden City native and one-time K-State assistant Mark Fox were going to blow the Wildcats out of the building as they built a 35-20 lead with 12:10 to play after Mann sank a pair of free throws.
That’s when Thomas Gipson coming off the bench after not starting the game as he nursed a sprained ankle suffered in Sunday’s loss to Texas Southern put the team on his back as he scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half.
It was an encouraging performance by the Wildcat bench players after the starting five was benched for much of the game after producing no scoring punch. With 4:31 left in the second half, K-State took its first lead of the game since 2-0 on their only three-pointer of the game by Nigel Johnson. K-State would twice expand its lead to three points and led 46-43 with 2:49 left.
However as was the case against Texas Southern, the Wildcats allowed a game-ending run by their opponent except not quite as quick and dramatic as Sunday’s collapse. Nemanja Djurisic’s three-pointer with 1:07 remaining gave the Bulldogs the lead for good and from there Georgia knocked down three free throws while K-State failed to score on its final two trips down the floor on their way to their second straight loss.
In addition to Gipson’s performance, the Wildcats also got scoring from Johnson with nine points while Wesley Iwundu added seven and Malek Harris had four. Marcus Foster had just two points in 24 minutes while Justin Edwards was held scoreless in 13 minutes of playing time.
Wednesday’s defeat marked the first time that Kansas State had lost back-to-back games overall since falling to Kansas and Iowa State respectively on February 13 and 25, 2012 and the first time since the 1987-88 season, the Cats last in Ahearn Field House that they had lost consecutive non-conference games on their home floor.
Kansas State (7-6) won’t have much time to think about the Georgia game as the Wildcats will open Big 12 play on Saturday with a trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. K-State has just one victory at Gallagher-Iba Arena since 1993. Tipoff on Saturday is set for 11 a.m.
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