MANHATTAN, Kan. – Behind the play of its All-American point guard McKinley Wright IV, a veteran Colorado squad broke open a tight game against Kansas State with an early second-half surge to hand the Wildcats a 76-58 loss in the final game of the Little Apple Classic on Friday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
Wright, a Pac-12 First Team and All-Defensive Team selection a year ago, led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-16 field goals, including a stretch of 10 points in a 20-8 run that turned a 44-42 lead with 13:52 to play into a 64-50 advantage with just 7 minutes to play. He also had a team-high 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 steal in 39 minutes.
The Buffaloes (2-0) connected on 55.2 percent (16-of-29) of their field goals after halftime, including 72.2 percent (13-of-18) from inside the 3-point line, to flip a 31-30 halftime deficit into a decisive victory. This came after shooting just 41.7 percent (10-of-24) in the first half, in which, they trailed by as many 13 points.
The young Wildcats (0-2), which started a lineup of just one senior (Mike McGuirl) to go with three sophomores (Kaosi Ezeagu, Antonio Gordon and DaJuan Gordon) and a true freshman (Nijel Pack) compared to one for the Buffaloes that had three seniors and two juniors brought the energy early, using a 12-0 run to take 22-9 advantage with 9:37 remaining in the first half.
However, flagrant-1 technical on freshman Davion Bradford at the 8:40 mark changed the momentum, as Colorado rattled off 14 points in a row to take 23-22 lead with 4:52 to play. A 3-pointer by McGuirl ended the run with 4:20 before halftime and helped K-State regain the lead at 31-30 at the break.
The Buffaloes were the aggressor coming out of halftime, scoring 7 in a row to take a 37-31 lead at the 17:42 mark. Another McGuirl 3-pointer capped a 6-0 spurt by the Wildcats that tied it up at 37-all, but 3 consecutive free throws by senior Maddox Daniels helped give the team an edge and a string of 12 of the next 17 points that forced a timeout by head coach Bruce Weber with 13:03 to play.
Colorado seemed to answer any type of K-State run, as the Buffaloes used their experience to push the lead to 18 points to win both games in the Little Apple Classic.
Wright was joined in double figures by Daniels, who scored 10 points, while 3 others (Eli Parquet, Jeriah Horne and Jabari Walker) all finished with 9 points.
Pack was the lone Wildcat in double figures with 12 points on 4-of-8 field goals, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, in just 26 minutes of action after playing less than 8 minutes in the first half due to injury. Three other Wildcats – Ezeagu, Antonio Gordon and McGuirl – all added 8 points each.
K-State connected on 44.7 percent (21-of-47) from the field, including 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from 3-point range.
A flagrant-1 technical on freshman Davion Bradford at the 8:40 mark in the first half seemed to be an early turning point, as the veteran Buffaloes turned a 22-9 deficit into 23-22 lead with 4:52 to play. Jabari Walker and McKinley Wright IV converted on all 4 free throws to ignite a 14-0 run that flipped the momentum.
After K-State ended the first half with four consecutive points to take a 31-30 lead into halftime, Colorado again seized the momentum with 7 straight points to start the second half. Even after the Wildcats closed to within 44-42 with 13:52 to play, the Buffaloes scored 20 of the 28 points to end any doubt of a comeback with a 64-50 lead with just under 7 minutes to play.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME
Freshman Nijel Pack was lone Wildcat to score in double figures with a team-high 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including a 4-of-6 effort from 3-point range to go with 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 26 minutes. It was his first career double-digit scoring game in just his second college game.
STAT OF THE GAME
55.2 – Colorado connected on 55.2 percent (16-of-29) of its field goals in the second half to flip a 31-30 halftime deficit into an 18-point win. The Buffaloes shot 72.2 percent (13-of-18) inside the 3-point line.
IN THEIR WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bruce Weber
On the game…
“Obviously, I was pleased with the energy and effort, especially at the start of the game. If we would’ve had that energy and effort against Drake, I totally believe that the outcome would’ve been different. It’s part of dealing with a young team, trying to be patient. I was really happy, as I said, with that. Obviously, we had some plays that went against us. We have a 13-point lead in the first half, Nijel (Pack) gets hit and we get a flagrant foul, a bunch of free throws in a row that definitely changes a game. But give our guys credit. We finished the half, took the lead. I think the second half, obviously (McKinley) Wright VI was special. I gotta give him credit. We got into him. We pushed him and made him make plays, and he stepped up and really made plays on both ends of the court. I was really impressed with his defense even. He got into Nijel and got into Mike (McGuirl) a little bit and chased him. Kudos to him. I thought they had some other guys step up, guys like (Jabari) Walker coming off the bench that made some plays for them. (Head coach) Tad (Boyle) does a good job. He’s got an older team. They’re very, very solid. Defensively and offensively, they know their roles. We probably lost our poise a little bit in the second half and took some tough shots. We didn’t turn it over as much, but we took some tough shots and need to learn how to work and get better shots all the time, especially when the momentum goes the other way.”
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE
- K-State is 0-2 to start a season for the first time overall since 2002-03… The team lost back-to-back home non-conference games for the first time since losing to Texas Southern (56-58) on Dec. 28 and Georgia (46-50) on Dec. 31, 2014.
- K-State is now 176-110 all-time in tournament play in its 86th in-season tournament history.
- K-State is now 111-10 in non-conference play at home dating back to 2006-07 with wins in 98 of its last 106 non-conference home games.
- K-State is now 96-48 all-time against Colorado, including 54-11 in games played at home and 15-9 at Bramlage Coliseum… It was the first meeting since 2011… The Buffaloes have won 4 in a row in the series.
- K-State is now 140-79 vs. the Pac-12, including 75-15 at home… This was the first meeting with a Pac-12 foe since defeating Washington State, 68-65, in Spokane, Wash., on Dec. 20, 2017… It was the first home game against a Pac-12 foe since dropping an 80-77 overtime decision to Oregon on Nov. 29, 2007.
- The Wildcats’ starting lineup consisted of senior Mike McGuirl, sophomore DaJuan Gordon, freshman Nijel Pack, sophomore Antonio Gordon and sophomore Kaosi Ezeagu… This is the first time using this lineup this season… McGuirl has the longest current active start streak at 7 games.
- K-State scored its 58 points on 44.7 percent shooting (21-of-47), including 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from 3-point range, and connected on 60 percent (6-of-10) from the free throw line… The Wildcats shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) in the first half, including 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from long range.
- K-State knocked down a season-high 10 3-point field goals on a season-high 26 attempts.
- Colorado scored its 76 points on 49.1 percent shooting (26-of-53) from the field, including 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from 3-point range, and hit on 85.7 percent (18-of-21) from the line… The Buffaloes connected on 55.2 percent (16-of-29) after halftime, including 72.2 percent (13-of-18) from inside the arc.
- Colorado outscored K-State in several areas, mostly notably in the paint (34-18) and in points off turnovers (21-11)… The Buffaloes forced the Wildcats into 17 turnovers.
- Nine different Wildcats scored in the first half led by Pack’s 6 points.
- Freshman Nijel Pack collected his first career double-digit scoring game with 12 points on 4-of-8 field goals, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, with 2 rebounds and an assist in 26 minutes.
- Three Wildcats – Kaosi Ezeagu, Antonio Gordon and Mike McGuirl – scored 8 points.
- McGuirl added a game-high 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 36 minutes of action.
- Antonio Gordon hit on 3-of-5 field goals, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, in playing 32 minutes in his first start of the season to go with 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
- Sophomore DaJuan Gordon led all Wildcats with 7 rebounds to go with 4 points in 23 minutes.
- Freshman Selton Miguel had a season-high 6 points to go with 3 rebounds in 21 minutes.
- Sophomore Montavious Murphy rebounded from his scoreless opening night with 5 points.
K-State is scheduled to continue its homestand on Monday night, as the Wildcats host Kansas City (2-0) at 7 p.m., CT at Bramlage Coliseum. The game will air on ESPNU.
*photo by Scott Weaver*