Kansas State won the Paradise Jam championship Monday night with an 82-67 victory over former conference rival Missouri. The Tigers began the game intent on making K-State beat them from the perimeter, and the Wildcats did just that. Though outside shooting had been a major deficiency for the Cats so far this season, against Mizzou, they made 12-of-24 attempts, including 8-for-14 in the first half.
K-State book-ended a 7-0 run to start the game with a 13-0 run to finish the first half. Missouri did not score for the first five minutes, but once the Tigers found the bottom of the net, they scored on 9 of 12 possessions to to draw even with the Cats at 19-19.
The game was tied at 24 and 27 before Missouri went quiet again, allowing the Cat’s to build a double-digit lead. Riding uncharacteristically hot 3-point shooting, K-State stretched the lead to 13 at the break, 40-27. The Wildcats hit eight 3-pointers in the half. Dean Wade connected of 4-of-5 attempts, while Xavier Sneed made two and Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes each contributed a make from outside.
A 7-2 Wildcat run to start the second half pushed the lead to 18, and Missouri would never climb closer than a 13-point deficit the rest of the way. A scary moment occurred midway through the second half, when Stokes went to the bench favoring a foot. Cartier Diarra took over for him and promptly knocked down back-to-back threes. Fortunately, Stokes returned a few minutes later.
While contributions came from everywhere throughout the tournament, the final was about the three seniors and Sneed. Stokes opened the scoring with a three-pointer to set the tone, and he finished with 10 points on 4-9 (2-5 on 3-pointers) shooting, with 3 assists and one turnover. Sneed had 13 points and 6 rebounds.
The co-alphas of the squad had very similar stat lines. Wade had 21 points on 8-10 (4-6) shooting, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Brown had 19 points, six rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. Diarra added 8 points and two assists off the bench.
Missouri was led by senior guard Jordan Geist, who dropped in 24.
Three in the Key
- Three is a good place to start. Missouri’s strategy to force K-State to settle for perimeter shots made perfect sense, considering the Cats were 13-64 (20.3%) coming into the game. Tonight’s 12-24 performance raised the season average over eight points, to 28.4%. Still poor, but no longer embarrassing. Hitting the outside shot opened up driving lanes later, allowing the team to shoot 30-55 (54.5%) overall.
- All-tourney performers. Dean Wade was named tournament MVP, with Barry Brown joining him on the all-tournament team. Both were extremely effective tonight, with Dean posting a 27.0 efficiency rating, and Barry putting up a 25.0.
- Mission accomplished. The seniors made a big deal of wanting to bring home a trophy, and they imparted a focus to the rest of the squad, referring to this in social media and elsewhere as a business trip. After losing in the finals of early season tournaments each of their first three years, it has to feel good to break through, even if the field of competition left a bit to be desired.
All-in-all, you couldn’t ask for more...except maybe coverage on a real, live television network.