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K-State Men’s Basketball Recap: K-State 76, Florida A&M 58

The Cats showed their flaws are not fixed overnight, besting a severely outmatched Rattlers ballclub

If K-State is going to do something big, these two need to stop trying to win games with every play.
Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats (5-2) returned home from a dismal showing in Fort Myers to “take care of business” against the Florida A&M Rattlers, 76-58.

Quotation marks are necessary to describe this game as “taking care of business”; though the outcome was very much definitive, K-State looked to be sleepwalking through significant portions of the game.

While FAMU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, they never so much as sniffed the lead again, as K-State took command on the next possession with a Xavier Sneed three, and (slower than should have happened) pulled away to a 39-25 lead at halftime. Mike McGuirl found some great spot-up threes off of methodical offensive work, and Cartier Diarra chipped in a three as well in the first stanza.

The stretch from the under-8 media timeout in the first half, to the first media timeout in the second, featured most of K-State’s buckets as dunks, both in transition off of steals, as well as with good ball movement in the halfcourt set. Indeed, the Wildcats effectively broke FAMU early in the second half, amassing a 15-2 run out of the gate. At one point, Cartier Diarra and Sneed were just putting up layups, as it felt like another dunk would have been rubbing it in.

For the final 15 minutes of the game, though, K-State mailed it in. Listless play, turnovers, and lazy defense let the outmatched Rattlers keep the game “respectable”, trimming a 54-27 lead down to as few as 16 at one point late.

Rattlers newcomer Evins Desir proved to be a load in the paint for the Wildcats. Listed at 6-8, 300 pounds, the lone bright spot for FAMU proved over and over again just how substandard our post play is. The big man showed an amazing ability to use his body in an agile fashion on offense. Leading scorer Rod Melton, Jr. (11.2ppg) was held scoreless.

Make no mistake, Florida A&M (0-6) was completely outmatched in this one, and K-State’s lack of discipline from anyone not named Xavier Sneed is the only thing that kept this from becoming a 40-point joke.

K-State Player of the Game: Xavier Sneed

X finished the game with 18 points, 4 rebounds (one shy of his 500th), 3 assists, and 2 blocked shots in 29 minutes of action. Sneed was incredibly efficient on the offensive end, going 7-10 from the floor (2-4 3PFG) and 2-2 from the stripe, and also played smothering defense on the other end.

McGuirl gets a nod; over the past several games, he’s shown that when he’s set up for truly open shots, he can knock them down. McGuirl finshed with 16 points on 6-8 shooting, including 4-6 from beyond the arc. He’s now launching at 57% from outside over the past three games (8-14). He also chipped in 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Diarra finished with 11 points on 5-10 from the floor (mostly breakaways), and 7 assists.

The aforementioned Evins Desir finished with 18 and 8.

Statistically, some things stand out:

  • The Cats went 9-11 from the stripe as a group, significantly improving from their 62% on the season leading up to tonight.
  • 20 turnovers is too many, and against a team like FAMU, it’s downright atrocious. We’ll get into that in a minute.
  • K-State outrebounded FAMU, only the third time this season we’ve accomplished that feat.
  • Out of the 17 turnovers committed by the Rattlers, the Wildcats stole the ball 12 times.

Three In The Key

  • Turnovers. Typically, I take notes watching a game when I know I’ve got a recap like this to peck out. Its helpful to look back and see if a thought ended up being a trend, or just a good or bad play at the time.

I wrote VALUE THE BALL! Seven times.


Seven freaking times.

K-State committed 20 turnovers on the evening. Of those, ten were steals by FAMU. The other ten, we were completely in control of, and just didn’t value the ball. We threw lazy, nonsensical passes. We were lackadaisical in handling the ball. We were doing stupid stuff like throwing alleyoop passes in traffic to freshmen. One handed passes. Impossible passes when the easy play was, well, easy. And that doesn’t even consider including bad shots, which are just as much of turnovers as errant passes.

We struggle enough on offense. Giving up our opportunities to score isn’t making the situation any better.

  • Post play. We have two zero healthy post players on the roster right now. I don’t know what Makol Mawien and Levi Stockard are doing out there, but they ain’t playin’ basketball. With Montavious Murphy, James Love, and Nigel Shadd all out with injury, there exists a possibility where we’re better off running Antonio Gordon at the 5 and going small-ball the whole way.

Mak’s stat line tonight looks OK (8 pts, 6 reb in 21 minutes) until you realize that he only played 21 minutes due to just how ineffective and liable he was on the floor. He was pulled just four minutes into the game for Stockard, presumably for being a ghost in those 240 seconds. Mawien showed he was nearly incapable of playing defense on FAMU’s Desir, scored only after the Rattlers had all but given up, deferred every chance he had to be legitimately aggressive, and almost went out of his way to give the ball away to the if he was more than three feet from the hoop. In general, Mak showed zero capability to even compete against better post players that we’ll see later in the season. What flashes we have seen in the past of what Mak “could” be have been conspicuously absent in their entirety this season. So far, you could blame it on foul trouble. Not tonight - tonight, he just sucked.

And somehow, Stockard was worse.

Stockard continually gets hit with what I’ll call “discipline” fouls: thinking he can body-guard opposing perimeter players by hip-checking them, cheap over-the-back rebounding, and worst of all, moving screens. I don’t think we’ve gone a game this season where Levi didn’t get hit with a moving screen call.

Offensively, Stockard has decent hands. His footwork leaves some to be desired (he’s got relatively quick feet, but he gets rung up for traveling quite a bit), and he short-arms everything when he’s being challenged...but then, so does Mak. And he’s sooooo soft for how thick of a body he is. His only points came with Desir on the bench, and we were able to throw the ball up and over the defense. FAMU played two guys taller than me tonight - Desir (6-8) and DJ Jones (6-9). Stockard’s not going to see that short of a defense again this season.

We can’t win games with a black hole in the paint.

  • We actually ran an offense for a couple of plays! We won a game by 18 points, so I’m going to at least find one good thing to talk about tonight: when we patiently work the ball offensively, play inside-out, move the ball and our players, and wait for a ‘great’ shot instead of taking the first ‘acceptable’ shot, we actually don’t look too bad. We got a lot of easy, good looks in halfcourt sets tonight. But we’re in our own way when it comes to doing that consistently.

In other words, when we actually run an offense, it works. Go figure.

Random Thoughts

I’m looking forward to the new “script Wildcats” team kit that we’ll be donning against Marquette this weekend. I’m a sucker for well-done retro stuff.

Next Up: K-State has Marquette coming to Bramlage next Saturday; tip scheduled for 8:00p CT on ESPN2. Be sure to tune in - you might see the Cats surprise someone, or you might see one of the nation’s best players in Markus Howard tilt the scoreboard.