Wesley Iwundu Leads Kansas State to Season-Opening Victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore

Junior forward Wesley Iwundu recorded a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Kansas State to an 80 - 53 win in their home-opener over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Junior forward Wesley Iwundu recorded a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Kansas State to an 80 – 53 win in their home-opener over Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The 2014-15 seasons had two different story lines for Kansas State and Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES). On one side, the Wildcats struggled in Big 12 play and saw their best player transfer away, in Marcus Foster. On the flip side, the Hawks were one of the best surprises, winning 18 games under first-year head coach Bobby Collins and appearing in the 2015 CIT.

Heading into 2015-16, the Hawks are expected to contend in the MEAC, while the Wildcats are in a re-build in the Big 12.

On opening night, it looked as though the roles were reversed. Kansas State rolled over UMES to the tune of an 80 – 53 victory inside Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas.

To open the contest, the Hawks were held off the scoreboard for over 3 minutes, but Kansas State was unable to gain any separation, clinging to a mere 3 – 0 lead. Devin Martin hit a three pointer for the Hawks’ first points of the season, and Bakari Copeland followed that up with a layup to give the Hawks a 5 – 3 lead.

Out of the first media timeout, Martin completed a four-point play to give the Hawks a 9 – 5 advantage, but the Wildcats would make a run and take the lead right back. D.J. Johnson completed a three-point play, and a jumper from Justin Edwards put Kansas State back in front.

As the first half wore on, the Hawks struggled to get anything done from the field, opening the door for the Wildcats to seize control of the contest. Slowly but surely, Kansas State started to build a lead as the game approached half-time. The Hawks made their free throws, but struggled from the field, and their free throws weren’t enough.

Strong free throw from the Wildcats, plus seven points in the last 1:11 of the half, staked Kansas State to a commanding 35 – 21 lead over the visiting Hawks.

The second half was more of the same, in the fact that the Hawks had to rely on free throws due to poor shooting from the field and were unable to make up any ground.

Big man Dominique Elliott, who had a quiet first half, made two free throws to get the Hawks within 11 early on in the second half. Kansas State got those points back in a hurry, thanks to a Wesley Iwundu layup.

UMES would continue to try and chip away at the deficit, but they would never get any closer than 11 points. The Wildcats slowly built up their lead as the game went along, getting it to 30 points with just over a minute to go on a Kamau Stokes three pointer.

When all was said and done, the Kansas State Wildcats cruised to the 80 – 53 win over the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks.

On the night, the Hawks shot just 29.8% (14-of-47) from the field as a team, including just 5-of-21 from three point range. Devin Martin led the way, scoring a team-high 18 points while newcomer Bakari Copeland recorded 14 points and 8 rebounds in his Hawks’ debut. Ryan Andino, the reigning MEAC Rookie of the Year, was held to just 3 points off the bench, Forward Dominique Elliott was also neutralized, recording just 5 points and 6 rebounds in a losing effort.

For Kansas State, the play of guard Wesley Iwundu made fans forget all about Marcus Foster. Iwundu recorded a game-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in the victory. Guard Justin Edwards recorded 17 points of his own, while Barry Brown came off the bench to score 17 points in the win.

At least for one night, the rebuild in Manhattan, KS looked like it was on the right track. Iwundu will be looked upon to lead the team on offense this season, and he did just that on opening night.

It wasn’t the start that the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (0-1) were looking for to open up the 2015-16 campaign. However, they will have another shot to knock off a power conference opponent on Sunday when they take on the Missouri Tigers.

Thanks to Iwundu’s career night, the Kansas State Wildcats (1-0) put together a strong showing to erase the memory of Marcus Foster. The Wildcats will get another tough test on Monday when they welcome the Columbia Lions to town.

– T.B.