MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Senior Shane Southwell scored a career-high 21 points to help K-State conclude its non-conference schedule with a 72-55 win over George Washington on New Year’s Eve.
The Harlem, N.Y., native scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half, as the Wildcats (10-3) climbed out of an early deficit against the Colonials to post its eighth consecutive win and finish off the month of December with a perfect 7-0 mark. The loss snapped George Washington’s (11-2) six-game winning streak, which had included wins over nationally-ranked Creighton and Maryland.
“We had given the guys a goal when we left Puerto Rico to go unbeaten in December,” said Weber. “It was our opportunity to play ourselves back in the conversation for postseason play, so it was great to get it done. As we got closer to it, our players got more excited about it. Our goal was to go 1-0 each time out. We knew George Washington was a good team, an NCAA Tournament team, and we let them get into their sweet spots early. However, we picked it back up. Our defense, during that stretch where they didn’t score, did a great job and that kind of knocked their spirit out.”
The eight-game winning streak ties for the longest of head coach Bruce Weber’s tenure, matching another eight-game streak from Dec. 18, 2012 to Jan. 9, 2013, while the team finished perfect in December for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 2009.
Southwell, who matched his career-high for the third time on Saturday with 19 points against Tulane, went 9-of-17 from the field, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, against the Colonials. It was his first 20-point game, as he also added five assists, four rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 31 minutes.
Freshman Marcus Foster and junior Thomas Gipson joined Southwell in double-figure scoring with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Foster has now scored in double figures 11 times in the last 12 games, while Gipson was a force on the inside, pulling down a team-high eight rebounds.
After falling behind 16-5 in the opening five minutes of the game, Southwell scored eight straight points to spark a 20-0 run for the Wildcats capped off by an Omari Lawrence jumper. K-State’s defense did not allow a George Washington field goal for nearly eight minutes from the 15:25 to the 8:00 mark of the first half. The run gave K-State a 26-15 lead and got the home crowd into the action.
The Colonials would cut the lead to 32-25 after a pair of Joe McDonald free throws with 3:42 left in the opening half. However, the Wildcats responded by ending the first half on a 9-5 run to go into halftime with a 43-30 lead. Southwell led all scorers with 14, but seven Wildcats had at least one field goal.
Freshman Jevon Thomas made his Bramlage Coliseum debut and gave the Wildcats energy off of the bench. The freshman from Queens, N.Y., was tenacious on defense and showed great court vision, dishing five assists in 11 minutes during the first half. He finished the game with a team-best six assists on zero turnovers in 23 minutes of action.
K-State started the second half off strong with Foster scoring five quick points to extend the lead to 48-30 just 47 seconds into the frame. The Colonials would close to within 15 points on a number of occasions but the Wildcats seem to always find an answer as they extended the lead to 20 points with 10:17 to play in the eventual 17-point win.
Kethan Savage (14) and Maurice Creek (13) each scored in double figures to lead George Washington, while Isaiah Armwood posted a game-high 10 rebounds.
The defense was again stellar for K-State, as it held the potent Colonials to nearly 22 points under their scoring average with a season-low 55 points on 34 percent shooting. George Washington managed to shoot just 20 percent (5-of-25) from the field in the second half. The Wildcats have now held 11 of their last 12 opponent to their season low in points.
The Wildcats also won the rebounding battle for the ninth consecutive game with a 37-33 margin and now are 29-2 under Weber when out-rebounding their opponent.
The K-State offense was again efficient, as the squad connected on 48.3 percent (28-of-58) from the field and tallied 20 assists on 28 made field goals. The team also had 36 points in the paint, the second-most this season, and got 15 points from its bench, including nine from Nino Williams.
The team finishes non-conference play with at least 10 wins for the eighth consecutive season, as the Wildcats have collected an 81-18 record in non-conference play since 2006-07. The squad has now won 35 consecutive home games in the month of December dating back to 2004.
K-State returns to action on Saturday, as the Wildcats play host to No. 6/6 Oklahoma State (12-1) in the Big 12 Conference opener at Bramlage Coliseum at 3 p.m. CT. The game will be shown nationally on ESPNU with Mark Neely and former Providence coach Tim Welsh (analyst) on the call.
Tickets are still available for the contest through the K-State Athletics Ticket Office. Fans can still take advantage of the Holiday Mini-Plan, which included a $30 general admission ticket for both the George Washington and Oklahoma State game. For more information, please contact the ticket office by calling (800) 221-CATS or visiting online at www.kstatesports.com/tickets.