MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kamau Stokes scored 18 points, all but two of them in the second half, and Kansas State used a big run out of the locker room to edge Southern Miss 55-51 on Wednesday night.
Barry Brown added 15 points for the Wildcats (8-2), who trailed 31-19 at the break before their 20-2 charge midway through the second half allowed them to seize control.
Southern Miss (7-4) closed within 53-51 when Dominic Magee grabbed an offensive rebound, got fouled and made both foul shots with 10.4 seconds to go. The Golden Eagles quickly fouled Brown, and calmly knocked down two more free throws to restore the Wildcats’ four-point cushion.
Tyree Griffin’s off-balance 3 missed badly and time ran out on Southern Miss.
Cortez Griffin finished with 18 points to lead the Golden Eagles, who had not played a Big 12 foe since losing to Kansas State in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Griffin added 11 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
The Wildcats narrowly avoided losing their first game without Dean Wade, their preseason Big 12 player of the year. The rangy forward is expected to miss up to eight weeks after hurting a tendon in his right foot in last Saturday’s win over Georgia State.
For a while it was as if Wade’s absence galvanized the Wildcats the same way it did during last year’s NCAA Tournament when a different foot injury sidelined him for their Elite Eight run.
Then came the next 15 minutes of the half.
After scoring the game’s first seven points, the Wildcats missed nine straight 3s and were 8 of 26 from the field. They had just as many turnovers as made field goals, created only six turnovers and were pounded on the glass despite having a rare size advantage across the board.
Their 19 first-half points were the fewest they’d scored in a half this season.
Kansas State fared no better out of the locker room, coming up empty six straight possessions with four turnovers, before Stokes finally jumpstarted its big rally.
The senior guard scored 10 straight points, including two 3s that snapped an 0-for-11 start for the team, and the rest of the Wildcats eventually got into the act. By the time Brown’s bucket closed a 24-2 run that covered nearly six minutes, the Wildcats had assumed a 43-37 advantage.
Stokes added another 3-pointer a few minutes later, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 49-44, and Xavier Sneed and Cartier Diarra eventually put the game away from the foul line.
Southern Miss showed for a long stretch that it can hang with a Big 12 foe, dominating Kansas State on both ends of the court. But coach Doc Sadler couldn’t stop the Wildcats’ momentum even with his timeouts, and the Golden Eagles allowed the game to get away.
Kansas State survived another sluggish performance, just as they did against Georgia State last weekend. But the Wildcats will need to play more than 15 good minutes to beat Vanderbilt on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.
Southern Miss continues a six-game trip Friday night at South Dakota.
Kansas State plays Vanderbilt on Saturday night in Kansas City, Missouri.