- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 31, 2013

MANHATTAN, Kan. — After enduring three disappointing losses in the month of November, Bruce Weber said his team only had one option to close out the nonconference portion of their schedule.

“I had looked at the schedule and I don’t usually look ahead and we had seven games in December,” Weber said. “Five were going to be at home with the Wichita (Kan.) game against Gonzaga and obviously Tulane (in Brooklyn, N.Y.). Our goal right now to get ourselves back into contention for postseason play has got to be to go undefeated in the month of December.”

And it’s exactly what they did.

Shane Southwell had 21 points and Thomas Gipson had 12 points and eight rebounds as Kansas State beat George Washington 72-55 on Tuesday.

The victory stretches Kansas State’s winning streak to eight games and gives Southwell his first 20-point performance of the season.

Defense continues to be the answer for the surprisingly inexperienced Wildcats. They not only lead the Big 12 in scoring defense at 58.1 points per game but also find themselves in the top 10 nationally in the category.

It’s also the 11th time in its last 12 games that Kansas State’s opponent has been held under its scoring average.

“In all honestly, their point guard just dominated us,” George Washington coach Mike Lonergan said of Jevon Thomas. “We couldn’t get into an offense. He got up on our point guard and we really struggled with the ball. We couldn’t get into any of our sets and we ended up not getting good shots.”

George Washington (11-2) entered the contest averaging 77.7 points per game. Kethan Savage had 12 points to pace the Colonials and leading scorer Maurice Creek contributed 11 points.

The Colonials 34 percent shooting performance was their worst of the season and just the third time they had been held under 40 percent.

The Wildcats quickly negated the Colonials’ opening 15-6 run by going on a 20-0 run of their own.

“What is going on?” Weber told his team prior to their scoring run. “We’ve been one of the best defensive teams and these dudes were picking us apart. They beat us on a flex cut for a layup, they beat us on post-ups, and they beat us on everything. Obviously we weren’t ready to play, but we definitely picked up.”

Southwell’s 14 first-half points ignited the run while Williams and Gipson each tallied eight points.

“It was just an amazing feeling,” Southwell said of the scoring run. “I was happy that the other guys stepped up.”

A Kethan Savage basket cut the lead to nine as it ended George Washington’s seven-minute scoring drought.

The Colonials were unable to find a defensive plug as the Wildcats stretched the lead back to 13 at the break.

Omari Lawrence and Nino Williams aided the Wildcats’ first-half performance with 13 bench points and Kansas State’s 43 first-half points surpassed its previous season high of 40 against Central Arkansas on Dec. 1.

“We are all playing as a team,” Gipson said. “Once the guards get going, I will be open on the inside. We are working in tandem right now and it is really good.”

The Colonials entered the contest with the nation’s 20th ranked 3-point shooting offense and they were limited to 20 percent (3 for 20) on the afternoon.

Jevon Thomas had six assists in only his second game of the season and Kansas State’s season-high 20 assists were its highest since facing Baylor at home on Jan. 20, 2012.

Five quick points courtesy of Marcus Foster stretched the Wildcats (10-3) lead to 18 less than two minutes into the second half and it never fell under 15 the rest of the way.

Kansas State’s 16 fouls muddied the second half, but the Colonials were only able to convert 10 of 21 from the free throw line.

The recent addition of Thomas gives the Wildcats four freshman that play regularly, but it doesn’t take away from the quality of depth in the mind of Gipson.

“It has been really good because it provides a lot of depth for our team,” Gipson said. “The teams that we have faced do not have a lot of depth and once one of us gets tired, we get subbed out. We do not skip a beat when someone comes in and that is going to be really important once Big 12 play starts (on Saturday).”

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