Kansas State rallies in the second half to beat Southern Miss 55-51
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kamau Stokes knew all along he’d play against Southern Miss on Wednesday night, even when Kansas State coach Bruce Weber listed his senior guard as merely the probable starter because of an ankle injury.
The Wildcats certainly needed him.
Stokes hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, all but two of them coming in the second half, as the Wildcats used a big run out of the locker to edge the Golden Eagles 55-51 on Wednesday night in their first game without Dean Wade.
Much like Stokes, the preseason Big 12 player of the year went down with an injury in last weekend’s win over Georgia State. But unlike Stokes, the talented forward is expected to miss up to eight weeks with a tendon injury in his right foot.
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“When there’s a man down,” Stokes said, “you have to take ownership, and especially being a senior, one of the leaders on the team, somebody had to step up.”
Barry Brown added 15 points for the Wildcats (8-2), who trailed 31-19 at the break before their 24-2 charge midway through the second half allowed them to seize control.
Southern Miss (7-4) closed within 53-51 when Dominic Magee grabbed an offensive rebound, got fouled and made both foul shots with 10.4 seconds to go. The Golden Eagles quickly fouled Brown, but he knocked down two more free throws to restore the Wildcats’ four-point cushion.
Tyree Griffin‘s off-balance 3 missed badly and time ran out on Southern Miss.
“We came out with energy in the first half and we were making shots. They just locked us up on defense in the second half,” the Golden Eagles’ Cortez Edwards said.
Edwards finished with 18 points to lead the Golden Eagles, who had not played a Big 12 foe since losing to Kansas State in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Griffin scored 11.
For a while it appeared as if Wade’s absence — he was on crutches and camped out on the Kansas State bench — had galvanized the Wildcats the same way it did during last year’s NCAA Tournament, when a different foot injury sidelined him for their Elite Eight run.
Then came the next 15 minutes of the half.
After scoring the game’s first seven points, the Wildcats missed nine straight 3s and were 8 of 26 from the field in the first half. They had just as many turnovers as made field goals and were pounded on the glass despite having a rare size advantage across the board.
Their 19 first-half points were the fewest they’d scored in a half this season.
“Dean does so many things,” Weber said. “It changes the game, no doubt, but we’ve got to find a way to get more offense. Be a little more efficient taking care of the basketball.”
Kansas State fared no better out of the locker room, coming up empty six straight possessions with four turnovers, before Stokes finally jumpstarted its big rally.
The senior guard scored 10 straight points, including two 3s that snapped a 0-for-11 start for the team, and the rest of the Wildcats eventually got into the act.
By the time Brown’s bucket closed a 24-2 run, the Wildcats had assumed a 43-37 lead.
Stokes added another 3 a few minutes later, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 49-44, and Xavier Sneed joined Brown in putting the game away from the foul line.
“Somebody said, ‘What did you say at halftime?’ Those first four minutes weren’t very good either,” Weber said of the second half. “We manned up. We kept them off the line. That part of it was good. We even got a little bit in transition, which was positive. You get some of those easy hoops, it makes a difference.
“You just want to win,” Weber said. “You want to find a way to win.”
Southern Miss showed for a long stretch that it can hang with a Big 12 foe, dominating Kansas State on both ends of the court. But coach Doc Sadler couldn’t stop the Wildcats’ momentum even with his timeouts, and the Golden Eagles allowed the game to get away.
Kansas State survived another sluggish performance, just as they did against Georgia State last weekend. But the Wildcats will need to play more than 15 good minutes to beat Vanderbilt on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.
Southern Miss continues a six-game trip Friday night at South Dakota.
Kansas State plays Vanderbilt on Saturday night in Kansas City, Missouri.