MANHATTAN, Kan. — Nigel Johnson scored a career-high 18 points and Thomas Gipson had 17 points and six rebounds Friday to lead Kansas State over Southern Utah 98-68 in the season opener for both teams.
A.J. Hess had 16 points, including 12 in the first half, to pace the Thunderbirds, who are coming off a 2-27 campaign in 2013-14.
Four other players scored in double figures for the Wildcats, including Marcus Foster and Tre Harris with 13 points apiece. Johnson had a career-high tying five assists.
It was the most points Kansas State has scored since its 87-point performance against Central Arkansas on Dec. 1, 2013.
The Wildcats led 44-36 at halftime, and opened the second half with 33-9 run to lead 77-55 after 10 minutes.
Johnson shot 3 of 4 from deep to aid the Wildcats’ offense, which gave him all nine of his second-half points.
Hess’ fourth foul with 15:51 in the second half limited the Thunderbirds offensively as they shot 1 of 10 during the Wildcats’ run. Southern Utah finished 20-for-49 from the field after shooting 50 percent in the first half (11-22).
Kansas State’s physical play took an early toll on Southern Utah, forcing the Thunderbirds into 16 first-half fouls.
Gipson chipped in 14 points in the first half while the Wildcats went 18 of 24 from the free-throw line in the first half.
Hess kept the Thunderbirds within reach with an eight-point deficit at the break and chipped in a 4-for-7 performance from 3-point range