Kansas State’s early home basketball games against inferior opponents are becoming quite predictable.
The Cats start with a sloppy offensive first half and some poor shooting, then head into halftime behind but still close thanks to respectable defense. That defense becomes even better in the second half and K-State’s offensive execution improves enough to pull away for a reasonably comfortable win.
That formula changed just slightly in Tuesday night’s 62-51 win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, a winless SWAC team missing its top two scorers. Mostly the differences were bad, but it still goes down as a win, so we’ll start with the good.
Xavier Sneed snapped an appalling streak of 32 consecutive 3-pointers misses in the first half and even hit two more before the Cats hit the locker rooms shooting with four 3-pointers and a season-high 27 first-half points. Makol Mawien’s short shot just before the buzzer meant K-State wasn’t losing after 20 minutes for the first time all season.
Sadly, the game was still tied at 27 thanks to some sub-standard defense, and the Cats would keep playing terribly sloppy offense all the way up until the midway point of the second half. They committed 16 turnovers during that time and made just 3 of their first 11 free throws to help Arkansas Pine Bluff and its decent jump shooters stay in the game.
An early 14-6 Kansas State lead turned into an 18-14 deficit during a 7+ minute scoring drought and UAPB was still within 5 at the 9:40 mark. That’s about when Cartier Diarra hit a 3 to spark a 9-2 run, and the Cats eventually led by as much as 16.
It wasn’t pretty, much like the dismal crowd at an admittedly uninteresting Fort Myers Tip-off campus game. But Xavier Sneed’s 21 points led all scorers and Makol Mawien managed 10 while somehow only grabbing 4 rebounds.
The absence of Montavious Murphy for due to a minor knee injury didn’t help, as Levi Stockard didn’t do a whole lot in his first start. Cartier Diarra was uncharacteristically reluctant to shoot with just 7 points on 7 shots, but he did still make some good contributions with 8 assists to offset 3 turnovers.
Antonio Gordon provided a nice boost off the bench with 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2-2 shooting from beyond the arc. Mike McGuirl had his worst offensive night of a disappointing season thus far with 0 points and 3 assists in just 16 minutes.
All in all, it wasn’t exactly the kind of performance you’d like to see against a team that lost to South Florida by 29 at full strength. Kansas State will definitely need to be better next Monday in the Fort Myers Tip-Off semifinals against PIttsburgh, which is 3-2 with a win over Florida State and losses to West Virginia and Nicholls State.
Three in the key
- Kansas State’s terrible offensive statistics don’t really do justice for how out-of-sync things looked for most of the game, but let’s run through them anyway. The ‘Cats shot 38.5% from the field and 56% from the free throw line while committing 16 turnovers, and they only grabbed 10 offensive rebounds on 32 misses. That seems bad. Thankfully, they did show some improvement by hitting 8-23 (34.5%) of their 3-pointers.
- Aside from a decent performance by DaJuan Gordon (8 points, 5 rebounds and plenty of energy off the bench) it was a rough night for K-State’s guards. Diarra didn’t exactly inspire confidence at point guard, McGuirl looked terrible, David Sloan appeared lost at times while missing all four shots, and Shaun Williams missed both shots he took in his first game after he entered late. Plus, if we’re being honest, UAPB’s guards got way too many open looks. Particularly .
- Xavier Sneed saved the Kansas State offense Tuesday night, and yes, it was great to see him knock down 5-10 threes. At the same time, though, it’s a little frustrating that 10 of his 12 shots were 3-pointers, and another one of those was a 17-foot jumper. At 6-foot-5 with the athleticism he has, Sneed should be getting at least a handful of layups and dunks against a team like UAPB, but he just didn’t seem interested in attacking the basket. That needs to change.