Shane Southwell finally got his wish.
Seventy-five games into his three-year Kansas State career … finally … Southwell become the Wildcat of the moment.
“Since I came here, I’ve been waiting for a big-time pressure situation,” said Southwell of his heroics in Saturday’s 65-64 victory at West Virginia.
The Harlem, N.Y., native was involved in every big play in the final minutes of the game.
He netted a career-high of 17 points, which included a pivotal mid-range jumper, the game-winning free throws at the 21-second mark, plus had the block, followed by the rebound, on what could have been the Mountaineers’ game-winning shot.
“I’d say the free throws meant more because without them there wouldn’t have been a block at the end,” said Southwell. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the pressure, but I just tried to focus on my routine and make them.”
That routine was “… one dribble, look at the ball, look at the rim … and nothing but net.”
And then came the blocked shot.
“I know he liked to get a lot of body contact, so I just gave him a little room and used my body length on him,” said Southwell on his defensive strategy on the 6-foot-1 Browne.
On the end of the game heroics, KSU coach Bruce Weber said, “In the huddle I said, ‘How do we win games?’ You get stops and people make plays. Shane made plays.”
It’s a given that Southwell’s play had been relatively steady, and definitely improved from his first two seasons when he was a 2.5-point per game scorer on 36 percent shooting, which included a chilly 25 percent from 3-point range.
Now in his junior season, he is contributing 7.2 points per game on 53 percent shooting overall and a blistering 48 percent from 3-point range, plus has a near two-to-one ratio in assists-to-turnovers.
Part of Southwell’s success came in moving inside and sharing minutes at the power-forward with Nino Williams.
While he’s listed at 6-6, Southwell says, “I think I’m 6-7, but I’m still undersized for that position, for sure. It’s fine with me because it’s helping make the team win. It’s not where I’m accustomed to playing, but I think I’ve adjusted.”
But he did admit with a laugh, “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s tough in there. It takes a lot of fight, will and it takes a lot of stamina. It’s tiring to bang around on guys that are a lot bigger and stronger than you. For me, it comes down to using my quickness and my smarts.”
Against West Virginia, Southwell took 13 shots with 10 finding the center of the rim – 5-of-6 from the line and 5-of-7 from the floor – not to mention playing defense that not only included the blocked shot, but also seven pass deflections.
“We’re a team,” said KSU senior Rodney McGruder. “Nino (Williams) stepped up big against Oklahoma State and now Shane stepped up. That’s what we’re all about. Each one of us doing what it takes to win.”
“Shane has played well at times, but now we need for him to do it consistently,” said Weber.
To that, Southwell added, “I’ve just started understanding what coach wants me to do, which is playing hard and being aggressive. Now I want to put a good second game together. I’ve never done that … have back-to-back good games.”