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K-State routs Emporia State in opening exhibition game

The Wildcats’ balance, athleticism and depth overwhelmed the Hornets Friday night.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kansas State vs UC Irvine
Senior wing Xavier Sneed joined freshman power forward Antonio Gordon to lead K-State in scoring.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Competition should be considered, of course. But if K-State plays this well all season and finishes ninth in conference, as predicted, the Big 12 will be a loaded league.

The Wildcats looked athletic, diverse and deep in dismantling Division II Emporia State, 86-49, in their first exhibition game of the season Friday night in Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State displayed the defense that has become a hallmark of Bruce Weber’s teams, forcing 16 turnovers en route to a 42-19 halftime lead, and forcing Emporia State into 23 total turnovers in the game. They held the Hornets to 34% shooting on the night and out-rebounded them 47-34.

The Cats also spread the floor and shared the wealth offensively, tossing 27 assists and getting at least four points from ten different players.

Fatigue and poor shot selection allowed Emporia State to cut the lead to 18, at 60-42 midway through the second half. The stretch was a learning experience for the young K-State squad, though, as four newcomers—Antonio Gordon, DaJuan Gordon, Montavious Murphy and David Sloan—shared the floor with Cartier Diarra during that stretch and never allowed the gap to get closer. K-State’s final margin of 37 was its largest of the game.

Three in the Key:

  1. This team is not the same old plod squad. As competitive as Bruce Weber’s teams have been over the past few years, they never showed much ability to light up the scoreboard. They were tough defensively, ground out possessions to find shots, and hoped to outlast the opponent. This bunch—again, competition considered—appears to have multiple players who can create shots either off the dribble or cutting through gaps in the defense. They attacked the rim repeatedly, and but for some missed opportunities and rushed shots, might have threatened to eclipse 100. The injection of athleticism may help the Cats create even more steals and open-floor showtime this season, too. Finding shots was never a problem in this game, as K-State hoisted 79 attempts to ESU’s 50. Taking the right shots and making them (36-79 overall, 11-31 3P) sometimes was a problem. Both should improve with time.
  2. It appears the new guys can really play. Antonio Gordon shined tonight, scoring 18 on 8-for-11 shooting and corralling 7 rebounds. But Montavious Murphy (8 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists), DaJuan Gordon (7-3-1) and David Sloan (8-5-7) all showed flashes suggesting they could lead the team, as well. Dean Wade, Barry Brown Jr. and Kamau Stokes will be hard to replace. These four will (perhaps unfairly) be compared to the most decorated senior class of Weber’s K-State tenure. But, for one night at least, they are mostly off to a good start.
  3. The veterans can still play, too. Sneed started the scoring in both halves with a three and tied Antonio Gordon (A-Go?) for team lead in scoring with 18, to go along with seven boards, three assists and two steals. Cartier Diarra only made 4 of 11 attempts but finished with nine points, five assists and two blocks. Mike McGuirl had only four points, but passed for six assists, one shy of Sloan’s total. Levi Stockard (and Makhol Mawien, for that matter) still needs to be stronger at the rim, but he showed improved range in scoring six points on only four shots, and he collected four rebounds and even had two assists and a steal. The best news may be that the two upper-classmen, along with Gordon and Murphy (and Shadd and Love, if they can get healthy and emerge) gives K-State the deepest rotation of paint players it has had in a very long time.

Next Up

The Wildcats will wrap up their exhibition season at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, October 30, when they host the Washburn Ichabods. The regular season tips November 5 against 2019 “First Four” winner North Dakota State.