MANHATTAN, Kan. – A 14-4 run to end the first half helped Kansas State dig itself out of a 14-point deficit, as the Wildcats took the lead right before halftime and never looked back in earning an 81-64 win over Abilene Christian on Tuesday night before 7,136 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats (8-1), who are off to their best start since also opening the 2017-18 season at 8-1, connected on a season-high 58.5 percent (31-of-53) from the field, including 64 percent (16-of-25) in the second half. They dished out 23 assists on their 31 made field goals and collected a season-best 52 points in the paint.
Despite playing just 7 players for the majority of the game, four Wildcats scored in double figures led by a career night from junior David N’Guessan, who scored a career-best 23 points on perfect 9-of-9 field goals to go along with 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist. N’Guessan eclipsed his previous career-high with 16 first-half points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting while he added 7 more in the second half to collect his first career 20-point game.
N’Guessan was joined in double figures by senior Markquis Nowell, who posted his second double-double of the season with 15 points and a season-tying 12 assists to go with 6 rebounds and 3 steals in 39 minutes. It was his 10th career double-double, including his fifth such double-double as a Wildcat. His 12 assists tied his previous season-high of 12 vs. Rhode Island on Nov. 21 with both tying for the fourth-most in school history.
Senior Keyontae Johnson and junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin each added 12 points and a combined 15 rebounds.
The other purple Wildcats (5-5) made things difficult for the host, running out to a 14-point lead (28-14) behind an impressive shooting performance, as they made 11 of their first 19 field goal attempts, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Behind the performance of N’Guessan, K-State slowly chipped away at the deficit, using a 14-2 run to close to within 30-28 with 4:45 to play before using a 7-1 spurt to end the half to take a 35-34 advantage into the locker room. N’Guessan scored 10 of the Wildcats’ 21 points during this stretch.
K-State continued its momentum in the second half, using a 17-7 run out of halftime to build a double-digit lead that it would maintain the rest of the game. ACU got to within 11 points twice in the last 4 minutes, including 73-62 with 2:21 remaining, but could get no closer, as K-State scored 8 of the last 10 points for the 17-point win.
Just 4 days after posting one of its worst offensive games of the season in a win over Wichita State, K-State made nearly 60 percent of its field goals against ACU while dishing out 20 or more assists for the second time this season. The Wildcats could’ve had more points if not for a better night for the free throw line, as they made just 16 of 29 attempts for a season-low 55.2 percentage. Still, the squad connected on 68.3 percent (28-of-41) of their field goals inside the 3-point arc.
ACU, which won 25 games a season ago under Rose Hill, Kansas native Brette Tanner, could never sustain its fast start, hitting on just 14 of its last 36 attempts, including 1-of-10 from 3-point range. The Wildcats still finished 25 of 55 from the field for 45.5 percent, including 36.8 percent (7-of-19) from beyond the arc.
Senior Tobias Cameron was one of two Wildcats in double figures with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and game-high 4 steals, while senior Immanuel Allen added 11 points.
It was the first meeting between the schools since 1986.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The two teams went back and forth in the early going before ACU used a 10-0 run to take a 21-10 lead to force head coach Jerome Tang to take his first timeout with 12:24 remaining. The Wildcats shot 57 percent (8-of-14) during the stretch, including hitting 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range.
The run grew to 12-0 after the timeout as ACU doubled up K-State at 28-14 before a 5-0 spurt, which included a 3-pointer from junior David N’Guessan, closed the gap to 28-19 at the 7:50 mark. A steal and dunk by sophomore Cam Carter got the home Wildcats to within 28-21 on the next possession. ACU responded with a bucket to push back out to 30-21, but K-State was able to use a 7-0 run to get within a possession at 30-28 with 4:45 to play.
After ACU ended the run with a layup, the Wildcats finished off the half with a 7-1, which included 5 points from N’Guessan, who led all scorers with a career-high 16 points, to lead 35-34 at the break.
K-State took charge in the opening moments of the second half, using a 17-7 run to take a 52-41 advantage just moments after the first media timeout. Four different Wildcats contributed to the run, including 6 from senior Markquis Nowell and 5 from senior Keyontae Johnson. The lead grew to 66-51 on a pair of baskets by Johnson and another by N’Guessan with under 8 to play.
ACU got to within 11 points twice in the last 4 minutes, including 73-62 with 2:21 remaining, but could get no closer, as K-State scored 8 of the last 10 points for the 17-point win.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Junior David N’Guessan scored a career-high 23 points on perfect 9-of-9 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist in a career-best 33 minutes. It was just his sixth double-digit scoring game, including his first 20-point outing, as he became the second Wildcat to go a perfect 9-of-9 from the field this season.
Senior Markquis Nowell dished out a season-tying 12 assists to go with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in nearly 39 minutes. It was his 10th career double-double (points/assists), including his fifth such game as a Wildcat.
STAT OF THE GAME
68.3 – As part of K-State’s season-best 58.5 field goal percentage, the team connected on 68.3 percent (28-of-41) of their field goals inside the 3-point arc and had scored a season-high 52 points in the paint.
IN THEIR WORDS
Head coach Jerome Tang
On the game…
“Very thankful for the win. Blessed to be the coach of these guys. It’s a lot of fun. Coach (Urlic) Maligi, he did a great job with the scout. I thought at halftime our staff did a great job with adjustments, credit Abilene Christian for coming out and having a really good game plan. And they made 6 threes in the first 12 minutes and we held them to 1 three the last 28 minutes. And that was the adjustments that the staff made and so I credit my staff, I absolutely love those guys.”
On David N’Guessan’s offense at K-State …
“Well, you know, at Virginia Tech, he played behind two all-conference guys. And so it wasn’t that he was a bad player, he was just stuck behind two all-conference guys. And so, in the limited minutes that he played, which you know about I think was about 13 to 17 a game. We saw him do some really good things and thought given more minutes, he could do more of those things. And he’s a real mismatch at the five. Because he’s so fast. He can outrun fives down to court, he can spring out of ball screens, and he’s starting to feel, they’re developing confidence in each other. He went 9-of-9, but you got to credit our guards for throwing the ball. He probably could have been 11 for 14 because he turned down some shots that he was open and didn’t go up and try and score it, but our guards kept throwing him the ball. But I see David’s game continuing to grow. I feel like he can shoot the three. I believe that he can make plays from the high posts and on a short roll as teams make adjustments and it’s going to just give us more options and just put the defense in a bind more moving forward.”
Junior David N’Guessan
On if he realized he scored 16 points in the first half…
“Not really to be honest. I just kept doing what Coach was telling me to do and they were finding me every time for easy layups.”
On how it feels to contribute on this level…
“It feels great. It’s the reason I transferred to be able to contribute more and help my team win more games. So, I’m happy I was able to contribute more for my team and get the win.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State’s 8-1 start is the best since also opening the 2017-18 season at 8-1.
- K-State is now 125-14 in home venues in non-conference play since 2006-07, including 116-12 at Bramlage Coliseum… It was just the Wildcats’ fourth home game of the season.
- K-State is now 3-0 all-time vs. Abilene Christian with all being played at home.
- K-State is now 16-2 all-time vs. WAC, including 14-0 at home.
- K-State used a starting lineup of fifth-year senior Markquis Nowell, sophomore Cam Carter, fifth-year senior Keyontae Johnson, junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin and junior David N’Guessan… It marked the eighth time in 9 games using this lineup.
- Nowell made his 30th start at K-State, while Carter, Johnson and Tomlin all made their ninth starts in Wildcat uniforms and N’Guessan his eighth… It was Johnson’s 64th start in college (other 55 at Florida), the 13th for Carter (other 4 at Mississippi State), eighth by N’Guessan (all at K-State), while Tomlin made his ninth Division I start (all at K-State).
- K-State scored its 81 points on a season-best 58.5 percent shooting (31-of-53), including 25 percent (3-of-12) from 3-point range, and connected on a season-low 55.2 percent (16-of-29) from the free throw line.
- K-State hit on 68.3 percent (28-of-41) of its field goals inside the 3-point arc.
- K-State had an assist on 23 of its 31 made field goals, including 12 by Markquis Nowell.
- K-State scored a season-high 52 points in the paint, which tied for the fourth-most since that stat has been kept starting in 2000-01… It was the most points in the paint in nearly 12 seasons since scoring 56 vs. South Dakota on Jan. 3, 2010.
- K-State scored 23 points off 13 turnovers and have now posted at least 12 points off turnovers in all 8 games, including 4 such games of 20 points, while forcing 157 turnovers (17.4 per game).
- K-State held the advantage on the glass, 36-26, including 26 defensive rebounds… Of its 10 offensive rebounds, the Wildcats scored 14 second-chance points.
- Four Wildcats scored in double figures for the second time and the first time since the opener.
- K-State led 35-34 at halftime on the strength of 53.6 percent (15-of-28) shooting, which included 26 points in the paint… Junior David N’Guessan led all scorers with a career-high 16 points.
- The lead snapped a 4-game streak of trailing at the half.
- Junior David N’Guessan scored a career-high 23 points on perfect 9-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-1 from 3-point range, while making just 4 of 11 free throws… He became the second Wildcat this season to go 9-of-9 from the field and the 10th overall… He added 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist in a career-best 33 minutes… It was his sixth career double-double and his first 20-point game.
- Senior Markquis Nowell scored 15 points on 5-of-13 field goals, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, and 3-of-3 free throws to go with 12 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in 39 minutes… He has now scored in double figures in 73 career games, including 26 in his K-State career and 7 this season.
- Nowell now has 10 career double-doubles (points/assists), including 5 such double-double as a Wildcat which extends his school record… His 12 assists tied his season-high, which are the fourth-most by a player in school history… It was his third double-digit assist game of the season.
- Nowell is the fastest Wildcat to eclipse 200 career assists doing it in 36 games.
- Nowell has 74 assists (8.2 apg.) through 9 games with 22 turnovers.
- Senior Keyontae Johnson scored 12 points on 5-of-10 field goals and 2-of-3 free throws to go with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in 30 minutes… He now has 47 career double-digit scoring games, including all 9 this season.
- Junior Nae’Qwan Tomlin scored 12 points on 4-of-7 field goals and 4-of-4 free throws to go with 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist in 32 minutes… He has now scored in double figures in 5 games.
- Senior Desi Sills continued his strong play from the bench with 8 points on 3-of-7 shooting with 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 24 minutes.
K-State continues its homestand on Sunday, Dec. 11 when the Wildcats play host to Incarnate Word (5-5) at 2 p.m., CT on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased online at kstatesports.com/tickets, by calling (800) 221.CATS or visiting the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum.