MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State used a 19-1 run late in the first half to surge in front for good, beating Gardner-Webb 67-54 Wednesday night.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (7-6) led 23-22 after Tyrell Nelson's transition layup with 7:02 to play before halftime, but the visitors missed their next 11 field goal attempts and turned the basketball over four times as Kansas State surged.
The Wildcats (11-1) made eight of their 11 first-half free throws during the run, including an old-fashioned three-point play by Barry Brown with 42 seconds left in the half. Kansas State led 41-24 at the break.
"I was proud of the way our team fought in the second half," said head coach Tim Craft. ""The last six minutes of the first half put us in a hole. I think we were up one and it was right there with six minutes to go in the first half and they had that 19-1 run to end the half. That was kind of the name of the game right there. For those six minutes they made plays, made shots and they really guarded us and made it difficult to get a basket. It kind of came down to that stretch.
"Early in the first half I think we were able to get some stops and get out in transition a little bit and get the ball in the paint. In the half court it was not there all the time. I think our best opportunities to score came when we were able to get out in transition. Jamaal Robateau made some shots, made some threes, during that run and we were able to guard them good on our end until that six minute stretch."
Gardner-Webb scored the first eight points of the second half to seize momentum, with back-to-back triples from Jamaal Robateau and Liam O'Reilly jumpstarting the quick start – but Kansas State gathered itself and pushed the lead back to 14 points – 49-35 – on an alley-oop play from Stokes to Sneed with 13:12 remaining in the game.
A transition three-pointer from Wesley Iwundu with 6:58 left in the game made the score 58-41 and the lead would not slip below 13 points the rest of the way.
Gardner-Webb missed its first six shots and fell behind 6-0 early, before Tyrell Nelson picked up a bonus opportunity in transition with 15:53 left in the opening half – making the layup and free throw to cut the Wildcats' lead in half.
Gardner-Webb continued to battle, as Laquincy Rideau got loose inside for a short shot to tie the game, 10-10, with 13:57 left in half.
Wildcats went 3:41 without a field goal, but made five consecutive free throws to go up 15-10 with 11:55 remaining – the final three coming after Xavier Sneed was fouled in the corner attempting a three-pointer.
Another Robateau three with 10:03 left gave GWU a 17-15 lead in the first half, with David Efianayi's baseline drive and pass setting up the triple.
The two teams traded baskets over the next three minutes, with Nelson's transition layup giving Gardner-Webb the lead back – 23-22 – with 7:02 remaining before intermission.
The Runnin' Bulldogs went cold, however, not making a field goal the rest of the half as Kansas State went on their decisive run.
Gardner-Webb held a 34-30 edge on the backboards Wednesday night and got 17 points from Robateau in the loss. The redshirt junior knocked down 5-of-9 shots from long range and pulled down four rebounds.
Nelson went 6-for-6 from the floor against a tall front line to finish with 14 points and seven rebounds. Rideau finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists in the game.
Gardner-Webb shot just 37.7 percent on the night (20-of-53) and were hampered by 15 turnovers – which Kansas State turned into a 21-8 edge in points off of turnovers.
The Wildcats got 18 points from Stokes and 16 from Johnson – with the pair combining to make 14-of-18 shots from the floor. Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 238-pound forward, was a perfect 8-for-8 inside.
Kansas State shot 23-of-53 on the night (43.4 percent). Wednesday marked the first time in five games – and only the third time this season – that the Wildcats have been limited to less than 70 points.
Gardner-Webb will enjoy an eight-day break before beginning Big South Conference play on Thursday, December 29, in Boiling Springs. GWU hosts High Point at 7:00 pm that evening in Paul Porter Arena (Big South Network).