The Wildcats overcame another early deficit with a dominant victory over the visiting Cowboys.
The Kansas State Wildcats and McNeese State Cowboys met for the first time in Bramlage Colisieum, Dec. 21. The Wildcats, propelled by junior guard Markquis Nowell and sophomore guard Nijel Pack, ultimately won their final matchup of 2021, 74-59.
Tuesday’s win saw Kansas State improve to 8-3 overall with their third straight win. The Wildcats continue to be formidable in Manhattan, Kan., improving to 6-1 on their home court.
Much like Sunday’s win over Nebraska, Kansas State trailed by a significant margin in the first half. The Cowboys held a 26-17 lead with less than six minutes in the first half. That lead disappeared quickly, due to an 18-2 run by the Wildcats to close out the first half. Their 35-28 lead at half proved to be important, as Kansas State is undefeated this season when leading at halftime.
Kansas State never looked back, once leading McNeese State by 21 in the second half. Pack and Nowell, along with sophomore guard Selton Miguel, scored in the double digits I the second half alone. Those three players accounted for 53 of Kansas State’s 74 points, and Miguel tied his career-high with 17 off the bench.
“We knew in the beginning that they were going to come out and play defense hard on us” Pack said. “We kind of settled early, but then we got some paint touches, kickouts and then some layups and played in transition a lot and that’s what really played in our favor.”
Pack’s scoring tear continued, shooting 4-of-8 from three-point range and 7-of-15 shooting overall. He has scored double-digit points in eight of the nine games he has played in 2021.
Nowell’s double-double performance came with 18 points and a game-high 10 assists. This is his second points/assists double-double of the season, and Nowell is the fourth Wildcat to record the feat twice. He joined Steve Henson, Jacob Pullen, and Angel Rodriguez in the Wildcat’s record books.
“It’s elite company, I’m playing with a great group of guys,” Nowell said. “There’s talent around me, so it’s easy to make plays when you know you have shooters and people that are just as talented as you… I’m not satisfied. I just want to keep winning and building off of this.”
Defense and pounding the paint has been the Wildcat’s trademark so far in 2021, and they were no different in this game. Kansas State scored 30 points in the paint, while their bench contributed 28 points as well. Kansas State has held six of their 11 opponents under 60 points this season, including in consecutive games for the second time.
Kansas State was supposed to close out the calendar year against the Morgan State Bears on Dec. 29, but the game has been canceled due to COVID-19 protocols within the Bears’ program. As of this writing, no new opponent has been scheduled for the Wildcats. If this is the last fans see of the Wildcats, the team enters 2022 on a strong run as conference play nears.