MANHATTAN – Perhaps a taste of the Southeastern Conference was just the break Kansas State needed.
The Wildcats No. 5 jumped Florida early, ran to a 21-point halftime lead, and advanced to a 64-50 Gators in their SEC/Big 12 Challenge Finals Saturday at the sold-out Bramlage Coliseum.
Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell each had 13 points and Nae’Qwan Tomlin 11 to lead a balanced offense for K-State, which improved to 18-3. Florida (12-9) had 13 points from Colin Castleton, plus 11 each from Myreon Jones and Will Richards.
Here are three takeaways from a dominant win for K-State, as it returns to Big 12 action Tuesday with a 7 p.m. Sunflower Showdown outing against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
Welcome back, David N’Guessan
Kansas State forward David N’Guessan made what was effectively his 2023 debut against Florida, starting and scoring nine points, all in the first half. He made a three-minute cameo a week earlier in the Wildcats’ win over Texas Tech, but did not play Tuesday at Iowa State.
N’Guessan had been sidelined with an ankle or right foot injury throughout Big 12 play, with the exception of the brief stint against Tech, making his last start against Radford on December 21.
Against Florida, N’Guessan scored his nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and added a rebound in 19 minutes.
Markquis Nowell flirts with the triple double
Markquis Nowell came close to his first career triple-double, but was stranded on nine rebounds and eight assists for much of the second half, where he finished with his own 13 points.
Nowell was on his way after helping lead the Wildcats to 37-16 in the first half, scoring eight points, six rebounds and eight assists in the first period, but was hampered by his team’s below-average offensive performance in the second half. .
The Wildcats’ elite halftime defense
Kansas State shut down Florida defensively en route to a 37-16 halftime lead, limiting the Gators to 20.7 percent shooting while contesting everything near the basket.
Florida had only three two-point field goals and four points in the paint at halftime. The Wildcats were particularly effective in stopping leading scorers Colin Castleton (2 points) and Will Richard (0 points), limiting them to two combined points on 1-of-7 shooting for the half.
Unfortunately it didn’t carry over into the second half as Florida doubled its scoring in just over eight minutes with Castleton and Richard leading, combining for 12 of the Gators’ first 16 points of the period.
Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @arnegreen.