Well, it wasn't pretty but Kansas State got it done against the University of Missouri-Kansas City Monday night with an 83-73 victory. The Kangaroos showed they are not to be taken lightly, leading the Wildcats at halftime by four and staying close throughout the second half even after K-State took a double-digit lead. With a victory last Friday over Missouri, UMKC is setting itself up nicely for a run in the WAC.
Early on in the game, Kansas State had trouble playing within themselves as they turned the ball over 11 times in the first half. Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, and Stephen Hurt lead the early scoring from Kansas State, while Broderick Newbill and Shayok Shayok led UMKC to an early 40-36 halftime lead. Kansas State did a good job of holding sophomore G Martez Harrison to 7 first-half points and three assists. Harrison's counterpart Jevon Thomas led K-State with four first-half assists while also going 2-2 from the FT line.
The second half showed a much improved defensive effort from Kansas State, as well as a renewed interest in keeping the ball in their hands while on offense as they only turned the ball over six times in the second half. Kansas State opened the second period on a 12-6 run including back to back-to-back three pointers by Marcus Foster, Justin Edwards, and then Foster again to take a 48-46 lead with 15:35 left in the game. Kansas State would not relinquish the lead again, weathering a valiant effort from Martez Harrison, who scored 11 of his 21 points in the second half, as he continually drove to the bucket to draw fouls against the Wildcats. Thomas Gipson was the story offensively in the second half, scoring 13 of his 21 points while taking all 10 of his foul shots in the second half. Kansas State was also able to limit UMKC to 33 points after allowing 40 in the first half. The highlight of the second half though, was Justin Edwards sealing the game with a steal, and an and-1 dunk (although he did miss the free throw).
Below you'll find some thoughts from both the first and second halves.
Three First Half Thoughts
Playing out of control:
Early on Kansas State showed they could break the 'Roos zone with patience and good passing, which led to two nice finishes by Stephen Hurt. However, UMKC was able to speed up the Wildcats by playing an aggressive 2-3 zone which capitalized on the 'Cats forced passes into the paint. This lead to bad turnovers (11 in the first half) and easy transition buckets for the Kangaroos. Kansas State also suffered from over-aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball, overpursuing on the passing lanes and allowing easy ball reversal, which allowed UMKC to shoot 53% from the field in the first half.
Aside from a heat check three from Nigel Johnson, and a bad three attempt by Marcus Foster on the Wildcats final possession of the half, K-State shot the three very well, going 4-7 from beyond the arc in the first half. With the exception of the previous two three-point attempts all of K-State's three-point attempts came within the flow of the offense including a smooth corner three from Tre Harris just after he checked into the game. Harris is quickly turning into the Wildcats outside sniper as he is shooting 4-5 from three already this season (yes, small sample sizes I know). Overall, Kansas State finished the game shooting 8-13 from 3 good for 61.5% shooting.
Playing only 10 minutes in the first half, Hurt was K-State's most comfortable player early on against UMKC's 2-3 zone, as he went 3-5 from the floor in the first half for 6 points. This included a smooth layup to start the game following some fancy footwork along the baseline, and then an easy-looking 15 ft mid-range jumper from the left baseline. These two shots showcased Hurt's versatility at the four position, and if he continues this early season trend he will be a handful from opposing forwards later on in conference play.
Three Second Half Thoughts:
If Thomas Gipson wasn't already the Wildcats' strongest post player, this game would have easily been his coming-out party. Gipson played the second-most minutes tonight (35), and was a FORCE down low as he dominated the Kangaroos' front line going 6-9 from the field, and 9-10 from the FT line. He led the team in scoring with 21 points, while also leading the team with nine rebounds. Of equal importance was his ability to stay out of foul trouble, only registering two fouls, and even better only one turnover on a night when K-State turned the ball over 17 times.
Kansas State's Offense:
While Kansas State picked it up on the defensive end in the second half, the offense continued to showcase firepower that was sorely lacking a season ago. Overall, Kansas State shot 58.3% from the field, 61.5% from three, and 65.5% from the FT line. They also went over the 80 point mark for the second time in as many games, while a year ago the Wildcats only scored in the 80's four times. Even with this success the offense still looks inconsistent, which has to be a scary thought for future Kansas State opponents. If K-State can consistently execute Bruce Weber's motion offense this team will be scary heading into the Big 12 Conference schedule.
It appears last season's push to eliminate much of the bumping and grinding that has plagued college basketball in recent years in against a point of emphasis. And while I agree that a more flowing offensive game is better for college basketball, these early-season games with a ton of bumping calls can cause a game to drag on. The two teams tonight combined for 49 FT attempts, which was almost half of the FT attempts as compared to game one (80). Hopefully, teams will begin to realize that you have to play defense by moving your feet and not bumping and holding the offensive players, because if not look for these games to drag, especially in the second half.
Recapping TheBigE's Keys To The Game:
Score the basketball.
As mentioned above, Kansas State was able to score with little problem, and they look to be much improved from a team that struggled to find offense at times last season.
Clean up the sloppy play.
The first half was ugly for Kansas State. 11 first-half turnovers is way too many, but credit UMKC for much of these problems as they forced K-State to play at a faster tempo than the Wildcats wanted too, while also capitalizing on the poor decision that the 'Cats made. The second half was much better as there was only six turnovers for Kansas State, and much better execution on both the offensive and defensive ends.
TheBigE called Kansas State out on giving up 15.5 orpg and tonight the Wildcats did a much better job limiting the Kangaroos' second chances, giving up only seven offensive rebounds, and only a total of 22. Meanwhile Kansas State grabbed 9 offensive boards, and a total of 29. While not a huge difference it is a sign of improvement for a team that gave up far far too many rebounds against Southern Utah.
Overall, Kansas State showed the ability to win when they didn't have their best performance, and they did so against a much better team than Southern Utah. This was a good early-season warmup for Kansas State, as they now head to Long Beach State, and then to the Maui Invitational. Hopefully, Kansas State can continue to clean up the sloppy play that has plagued them early in the season and roll to an early-season tournament championship.