“X gon’ give it to ya. #@$! waiting for you to get it on your own, X gon’ deliver to ya” — Earl Simmons, aka DMX
The Kansas State Wildcats defeated the UMBC Retrievers, 50-43, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2010, and nobody played a bigger role in the victory than sophomore Xavier Sneed. Sneed only scored 8 points, but they were eight phenomenally important points, six coming in the final five minutes and change, including a pair of thunderous dunks — one on a scoop and score, the other on a putback.
K-State got off to a terrible start on offense, falling behind 7-0 before Makol Mawien took the lid off the basket 6:20 into the game. From that point, the Wildcats finished the half on a 25-13 run.
Around the 10-minute mark, Barry Brown Jr. started to take over, making 3 of 6 shots and getting to the free throw line to lead all scorers at halftime with 10. K-State took its first lead when Sneed made a layup to go ahead 15-14. K-State wouldn’t pull away until the final minute, but the Wildcats never trailed after that layup.
The Wildcats were atrocious from beyond the arc in the first half, going 0 or 8, but their 9 of 16 shooting inside the arc — and excellent defense — gave the Wildcats a 25-20 advantage at halftime.
The scoring totals in the second half were remarkably similar to the first half, but it was so much uglier than the first half. K-State and UMBC combined for more turnovers (35) than made baskets (32). A lot of those turnovers were the result of outstanding defense. Sneed added four steals and seven rebounds to go with his eight points, and the Wildcats combined for 13 steals and two blocks.
Rebounding was, for once, a strong advantage for K-State, who led the boards 35-28.
Brown led all scorers with 18 points. Mawien joined him in double figures for K-State with 11 points, six rebounds, and two blocks. Cartier Diarra and Kamau Stokes struggled to score but combined for 13 rebounds and five steals. As a team, the Wildcats shot 40.9 percent from the field and a miserable 8.3 percent beyond the arc.
First-round hero Jairus Lyles led UMBC with 12 points, plus six rebounds, four assists, and four steals, but the Wildcats limited him to 4 of 15 shooting. K.J. Maura joined him in double-figures with 10 points. The Retrievers only shot 29.8 percent from the field, and 27.3 percent on three-pointers. Their 9 of 18 performance at the free-throw line was a gift for K-State.