By Dave Skretta
AP Sports Writer
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Every time Kansas State went to the line for a pair of foul shots in the second half against Mississippi, it seemed as if the Wildcats would make one and miss one.
Make one, miss one. Swish one, clank one.
Good thing that the biggest shot of the game came from beyond the arc, where freshman Marcus Foster drained a 3-pointer in the closing seconds Thursday night. It gave the Wildcats a bit of a cushion, and when Marshall Henderson’s go-ahead 3-point try with 2 seconds left missed everything, Kansas State escaped with a 61-58 victory in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
“My teammates just told me to be confident, control what I could control,” said Foster, who finished with 15 points. “I knew I was going to hit it. It was a real big shot.”
Made all the bigger by the struggles form the foul line, where Kansas State was 19 of 34.
“This was about gut-check, making some plays,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Marcus’s 3 in the corner was huge. … I’m just happy we fought it out to get a win.”
Thomas Gipson also had 15 points and freshman Wesley Iwundu had 10, including a free throw after Henderson’s missed 3 that sealed the Wildcats’ first win over Mississippi (6-1) in five tries.
Henderson, the flamboyant guard who dazzled in last year’s NCAA tournament, finished with 13 points but was just 4 of 18 from the field and 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.
Jarvis Summers led the Rebels with 18 points.
“We played good, we just didn’t make a couple plays at the end,” Summers said. “Our focus just wasn’t all the way locked in.”
Neither team led by more than five points the entire way, and it remained tense in the closing seconds. Henderson’s fade-away 3-pointer with 28.8 seconds left got the Rebels within 59-58, but Will Spradling made one of two free throws to give Kansas State a cushion.
Ole Miss raced the ball up court, and Derrick Millinghaus got the ball in the hands of Henderson, who let go with a tightly guarded 3-pointer from the wing that missed everything.
By the time Iwundu was fouled after the rebound, the Wildcats were already celebrating.
“We made the read to get him the ball,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I was hoping again, based on the rules, try to put some pressure on the rim and get a foul. He opted to take a hard shot and all night they weren’t falling for him.”
The Wildcats led most of the first half, despite committing nine turnovers, thanks to an ability to break the Rebels’ full-court pressure and their dominance of the boards.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss struggled with foul trouble. Post players Anthony Perez, Aaron Jones and Demarco Cox each picked up a pair of fouls shortly after the midway point of the half, forcing coach Andy Kennedy to use some unique substitution patterns just to get to the break.
Summers’ basket just before the buzzer got the Rebels within 31-29 at the break.
The game remained tight throughout the second half, neither team able to create much separation. For the Wildcats, it was lousy foul shooting that prevented them from pulling away, and for Ole Miss it was miserable shooting from the perimeter that kept it from establishing a lead.
Henderson, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts, finally connected from deep with 5:37 left to knot the game 49-all. Sebastian Saiz’s putback and Cox’s basket in the paint gave the Rebels a four-point lead, their biggest to that point in the game.
The Wildcats slowly regained the lead from the foul line, despite making one of two on just about every trip, and Foster’s 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining gave them a 57-3 lead.
Jones answered with a putback at the other end for Ole Miss, and Shane Southwell was there to pick up a loose ball and scoop in a basket for Kansas State to restore a 59-55 lead with 36 seconds left. Henderson hit his 3 moments later, setting up a tense stretch run.
“We made some strides and I think we grew up,” Weber said. “We talked a lot about toughness. We’ve talked a lot about gut-check. We’ve talked a lot about roles. It’s a big win, obviously. In the big picture, you beat a very, very good team that’s going to win a lot of games.”