LAWRENCE — The last time Kansas State and Kansas met on a basketball court two weeks ago, David N’Guessan has never left the bench.
K-State still managed to win the game, ending a seven-game losing streak against the Jayhawks with an 83-82 overtime decision that set off a courtroom celebration from Wildcat fans at the Bramlage Coliseum.
N’Guessan, a 6-foot-9 junior forward from the Netherlands, was relegated to a cheerleading role, still with a right ankle injury that sidelined him for all but three minutes of the first eight Big 12 Conference games in K-State.
In his absence, the Wildcats No. 3). Tipoff is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Allen Fieldhouse.
However, K-State lacked N’Guessan’s speed and quickness on the inside, both offensively and defensively. That was evident in his return to the starting lineup Saturday as he scored nine points in just 19 minutes during the Wildcats’ 64-50 home blowout against Florida in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge series.
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“(He brings) energy, great floor running, his speed and his position,” said K-State coach Jerome Tang of N’Guessan, who started 11 of 12 games before picking up an injury before the opener of the Big 12 against West Virginia. “I don’t know many guys that fast (or) that fast in the positions he can play, and defensively he covers a lot of mistakes.
“We’re not in rotation as much (defensively), so we have better block assignments, and that really helps.”
N’Guessan had only one rebound against Florida, but guards Markquis Nowell, Cam Carter, Desi Sills and Tykei Greene combined for 21, largely because they didn’t have to rotate their man defensively. And the other big men – Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Ismael Massoud and Abayomi Iyiola had 14 total after being shut out the previous game at Iowa State.
N’Guessan, whose injury has limited his cardio training, said he expects to get back into shape soon enough.
“It was cool,” she said of her comeback. “I got a little tired after the first two minutes, but I’m just happy to be back.
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“I don’t think I’m that close to where I was when I hurt myself, but after a couple of workouts I’ll be back. It’s just a matter of time, I’m just doing more and more reps. I’m just running up and down more during workouts and getting really the feel of playtime.”
Point guard Markquis Nowell particularly benefited from his return, picking up eight assists in the first half, as N’Guessan scored all of his points.
“We play at a faster pace (with N’Guessan),” Nowell said. “I feel like David comes out in transition (and) has a really good feel around the rim, so I’m just happy that he’s back.
“He does it all — all the little things that we really need from a big guy.”
The key now, Tang said, is for N’Guessan to recover on Tuesday with a little rest.
“I’m interested to see how his body recovers by Tuesday, because you’ll always energize that real first game where you play,” Tang said. “And that’s just so we can get it made up for Tuesday.”
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Kansas State ready for Allen Fieldhouse
Kansas State has lost 16 straight to Lawrence, with the last win coming in 2006, but Tang believes the Wildcats’ Big 12 schedule thus far will keep them ready for another capacity crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Wildcats held their own in a hostile environment last Tuesday at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, losing just 80-76, and already have road victories in Texas and Baylor. And then there’s the Bramlage Coliseum, which has been sold out in its last four games.
“We’ve had some very good venues in this league,” said Tang. “It’s no longer just a place that has a big home-field advantage, and the fact that we can always play in front of one, we’re used to a big crowd.
“So I think it will help our communication.”
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K-State forward Keyontae Johnson, who leads K-State in scoring with 18 points per game and a 7.7 rebounding average, said the Wildcats won’t approach the road version of the Sunflower Showdown any differently.
“We’ll come (Sunday) and practice and watch a movie,” he said after the Florida game. “Just go 1-0, go to KU (and) we’ll give it our all.
“We’re going to go out there and compete — we’re going to play the basketball we have to play.”
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.