Filling it up at home is one thing; filling it up at home off the bench against a top-10 team is another thing altogether.
But that’s exactly what Kansas State reserve guard Nigel Johnson did Monday, scoring a team-high 20 points off the bench to lead the Wildcats to a 70-63 win over No. 8 Kansas. Johnson was unstoppable, hitting 8-of-11 shots, including 4-of-5 from downtown.
He was just feeling it.
“Yeah, I would say that’s the best game I’ve had so far in college,” Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I was just taking advantage of how the defense was playing me. It seemed like they were going under a lot of screens. Or if a big man would get switched on me, they would sag off a little bit – I guess to make sure I didn’t blow by them and get to the rim or something. So I was just taking open shots and I was hitting them, so I got hot. I just came out in the second half and just tried to keep my aggression up and do what I could to get the win.”
It’s a good thing he did. Kansas State’s starting guards struggled, as Jevon Thomas and Marcus Foster combined for just six points. Thomas was held scoreless, and Foster shot 3-of-13 from the floor, including 0-of-6 from three-point range.
“I just tried to come in and take advantage,” Johnson said. “Marcus, of course, everybody’s going to key on him because he’s obviously the best scorer on our team and probably one of the leading scorers in the Big 12. So he’s going to get the attention every night. So sometimes somebody else got to come in and step up and try to fill in because sometimes they might double team him or box-and-one – just show him all the attention and slow him down. So I just tried to come in and ease the pressure off of him.”
Kansas State led Kansas, 31-30, at halftime and outscored the Jayhawks 39-33 in the second half. The Wildcats (14-15, 7-9) simply outplayed them for 40 minutes.
“That’s what we try to do: We just try to send the fans home with something to have fun with,” Johnson said. “Everybody always gets up for this game. It’s a rivalry game. Kansas State versus Kansas. So we try to send everybody home with a good night. Also, it was my mom’s birthday yesterday and she came out, so I wanted to put on a show for her.”
Kansas shot just 22-of-56 (39.3 percent) from the floor and 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) from three.
“Coach has been harping on it all week,” Johnson said of Bruce Weber. “They’re one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, and I think they’re the No. 1 shooting team in the Big 12. Obviously they like to hit a lot of threes. Wayne Selden, (Frank) Mason – all their guards and Perry Ellis can shoot threes. So we had to close out high and force them to try to do something else and make a few contested shots.”
Kansas State forwards Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson added 15 and 12 points, respectively, for the Wildcats, who host No. 12 Iowa State (20-6, 10-4) this Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.