Through three games, defense has been a calling card for this year’s Wildcats.
K-State (3-0) raced out to an early 10-0 lead, forged by forcing the UC-Irvine Anteaters (2-2) into turnovers and contested shots. Early on, the game looked to be a laugher. The visitors did not score until nearly five minutes had elapsed.
But foul trouble and empty possessions in the middle of the first half tightened up the contest. Trailing 20-6 midway through the first half, the Anteaters set a zone defense that baffled K-State into a 3 1⁄2 minute scoring drought. Irvine narrowed the gap to 20-15 before Barry Brown got K-State back in business, scoring off a screen.
On the back of two nice buckets from Levi Stockard and a 3-pointer from Brian Patrick, K-State extended its lead back to double-digits, 37-24, at the half.
After the break, K-State got a bucket from Kamau Stokes, then committed dreadful, sloppy turnovers on three consecutive possessions. Cal-Irvine’s Justin Wertner capitalized, hitting his team’s first two 3-pointers of the night to draw within 39-30.
The margin stayed within 11 until K-State started raining 3’s. Patrick and Cartier Diarra each hit one, and when Xavier Sneed hit from the top of the key for the second straight possession at the 7:42 mark to push the score to 59-36, the rout was assured.
The ‘Cats were again balanced. Stokes scored 14 and tossed 3 assists, with no turnovers. Sneed added 12, along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Diarra added 10 on 2-for-3 touch from outside the arc. He is now 6-of-8 from distance on the season. Barry Brown managed only 5 points, on 2-for-11 shooting.
Dean Wade had six early points, but played only 5 first-half minutes, due to foul trouble. Mawdo Sallah joined him on the bench with 2 fouls, while Levi Stockard, who was effective in the absence of the other K-State big men, picked up 3 infractions before halftime.
No UC-Irvine player reached double figures. The Anteaters were led by 6-10, 320-pound post player Brad Greene, who scored 9.
Defense was the real story of the game. K-State held the Anteaters to 16-of-54 shooting (29.6%), and only 4-of-20 (20.0%) from beyond the arc.
More of this, please.
- Brian Patrick broke out of his funk. Patrick looked lost in limited minutes during the UMKC game. Tonight, he gave energy and hustle, and knocked down two big 3-pointers. Patrick is here for his outside shooting. But if he can come off the bench on the regular to fill up the stat sheet like tonight (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers in 15 minutes of play), he could give this roster a real lift.
- Sneed and Stokes led the way. K-State will have to rely on the returning players’ experience to compete this season. On a night when Brown shot it poorly (more on that below) and Wade was in foul trouble, it was imperative that the other two leaders step up and lead. They did, and the squad won comfortably.
- That defense! As we saw tonight, there will be occasions when K-State struggles to score. Locking down on defense and clearing the glass can minimize the damage caused by those dry spells. So far this season, the defense has forced contested shots and has closed out on the 3’s. The guys did it tonight against a team that won its league last year and 3 of the past 4 seasons, and is favored to win it again. Have to give Weber and the staff credit for emphasizing defense with this young team.
NO MORE of this, please!
- Foul trouble. Some brilliantly prescient contributor on the BOTC staff roundtable predicted that persistent foul trouble would make post-by-committee the order of the day this year. That was the case against UMKC, and it was certainly the case again tonight. This should improve with experience.
- Barry’s line. 2-for-11 is way beneath his standards. It was not entirely his fault. When everyone stands around quizzically pondering the zone defense until the shot clock is about to expire, someone has to go and get a shot. Barry wound up being that guy more than he would have liked. Though he’s talented and creative, he doesn’t quite have the length or slither of a Wesley Iwundu. Bruce needs to school the team on breaking down that zone as a team, so Brown isn’t forced to jump into the trees looking for a miracle shot.
- Bruce mentioned the “Play Hard” Chart. Bad Bruce. Bad! Stop that.
It’s dangerous to read too much into early season games. Pundits suspect UC-Irvine will be good, but the Big West is several orders of merit below the Big 12. Still, if Bruce and the guys had put less than their best effort on the floor, this is a game they could have lost. Full credit for winning—and doing it convincingly—through foul trouble, droughts, and a stretch of sloppy ball-handling coming out of the break.
One more tune-up on Monday, against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (another creditable mascot, by the way), before K-State meets opposition from a fellow power conference, Arizona State, out in Vegas. The building blocks appear to be lined up. Let’s see what we can build.
Wildcat Women Win on Big 4th Quarter Run
In the prequel to the men’s contest, Jeff Mittie’s squad (do we use “Lady Cats” anymore? Or is that term gone forever?) survived several runs by the visiting Rattlers of Florida A&M to win 81-57.
The final score belies how competitive the game was. K-State was down early, then surged to a 45-37 lead at the break. Coach Mittie spent time-outs twice in the contest to calmly remind his team to close out on three-point shooters, especially in transition.
FAMU drew one point closer in the third quarter before Mittie’s message fully took hold. The ‘Cats held the Rattlers to four points in the final frame, while they ran off 21 of their own.
Freshman Rachel Ranke led all scorers with 23 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-11 beyond the arc. Freshman Peyton Willams added 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Junior Kayla Goth stuffed the stat sheet, with 11 points, a career-high 10 assists, six rebounds, and three steals.
As great as those performances were, the player of the game may have been Shaelyn Martin. She scored eight, snagged 15 rebounds and tossed six assists.
The team registered 13 steals and 10 blocks, in all.
Up next, the ladies play North Texas at 3:00 Sunday afternoon.