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Kansas State holds off Kansas City for first win, 62-58

A terrific start was the only thing that kept Kansas State ahead of a very weak opponent, but it’s a win!

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Texas
Will Bruce be happy with this one? Probably not.
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

UMKC, Kansas City, or whatever you want to call it, is a very bad basketball team. Let’s get that out of the way off the top. They’re picked to finish 7th out of 9 in the Summit League and right around 300th in the KenPom rankings.

So yes, it’s a little troubling that Kansas State couldn’t pull away, even if the 62-58 final score was actually closer than the game itself. Still, it is a win, which is something this team desperately needed. The Cats began on a really high note and then slowly let the Roos back into it, capped off by a 5-1 UMKC run to end the game.

Kansas State topped its 22-9 start vs. Colorado by jumping out to a 17-0 lead thanks to tenacious, disciplined defense and steady offense for nearly eight minutes. The Wildcats just stayed in front of the Roos, switching on screens and forcing difficult shots.

Meanwhile, Mike McGuirl, Nijel Pack and Selton Miguel all hit 3-pointers. The Cats’ guards took care the ball relatively well and found some good looks to create offense without needing many turnovers from the defense.

Naturally, that positive energy couldn’t last forever with this young team, and credit UMKC for hitting 8 of their 12 shots after missing their first seven. But it was difficult to watch the lead dwindle down to eight points in less than eight minutes.

On the bright side, DaJuan Gordon responded with a nice steal and dunk to put K-State up 19-6, which seemed to spark him a bit. He attacked the basket later in the half to get an and-1 and then draw two more free throws, plus dished off a nice assist to Antonio Gordon for a layup.

Gordon ended up just missing a double-double with 14 points and 9 rebounds. That helped offset another rough night for McGuirl, who scored just 7 points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Mostly, though, Kansas State’s offense kept plodding along for the rest of the first half. Fortunately, the defense did a little better, or UMKC started missing again, and the Wildcats took a 33-23 lead into halftime.

The second half brought more of the same, despite 3-pointers from K-State’s most reliable scorers thus far this season, McGuirl and Pack. Turnovers mostly kept Kansas State’s from finding any rhythm offensively, and KC found enough open shots to stick around, including a couple Brandon McKissic layups.

Roos big man Hidde Roesink drilled a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down and then got free for a dunk to spark a 7-0 that cut Kansas State’s lead to 46-38. Naturally, it was Pack who got the Cats back on track with an open 3-pointer from the right wing.

An often ugly defensive battle saw both teams working hard, and K-State got a pleasant surprise when Kaosi Ezeagu hit 5 of 6 free throws. Another Roesink 3 cut the lead to eight once again, and UMKC finally got closer when Brandon McKissic hit a 22-footer for 3 of his game-high 24 points make it 58-51 with 3:31 left. That would be the Roos’ last field goal until a meaningless layup and 3-pointer in the final six seconds.

Pack made a costly mistake with a turnover on a one-handed no-look pass, but he quickly responded with a defensive rebound and a floater on a nice drive into the land to snap a field goal drought of almost seven minutes for KSU.

If we’re being honest K-State was a little fortunate in the second half that UMKC missed some wide open 3-point looks in key situations. Plus the Roos did Kansas State a favor by allowing the Wildcats to run off 35 seconds with very little defensive pressure up eight with under a minute left.

Either way, the defense did enough to hold on for K-State’s first win of the season. Things get a little bit tougher but not too much with UNLV and Milwaukee before Big 12 play starts, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Cats can create a bit of momentum.

Three in the Key

  1. Pack is legit. A lot of people said Pack would be the gem of this recruiting class and through three games, he’s leading up to the hype. The point guard’s shooting a red-hot 10-of-17 (59%) from 3 and averaging almost 12 points per game to go along with his three assists. One of the more impressive plays during his 14-point performance Monday night came in the second half when a defender stepped away for some reason after Pack had picked up his dribble, and he calmly drained a 3-pointer to put KSU ahead 43-31. Most importantly, Kansas State’s offense just looks better when Pack’s on the floor and controlling the basketball. It’s obvious he’s got a great feel for the game and his vision will only get better as he gets used to playing with his new teammates.
  2. Turnovers were a problem. Kansas State’s offense has more shooters and more options this season, so why did they barely break 60 against Kansas City’s defense? In a word, carelessness. Give the Roos some credit for fighting hard and showing some decent quickness, but K-State simply gave the ball away on multiple occasions, most notably when Selton Miguel fell down in the second half on a fast break. Passing needs to be better and awareness is lacking at times when Wildcats drive into the lane. It all added up to 18 turnovers for Kansas State, which is not going to work against a quality opponent. Perhaps the only silver lining is few of those led directly to points and UMKC only scored 10 points off turnovers.
  3. Bigs stepping up. Yes, K-State’s post players shouldn’t have any issues dominating inside against a smaller mid-major team like Kansas City, which started a four-guard lineup. Still, it was refreshing to see it happen on both ends for the most part. K-State outrebounded UMKC 31-21 and held the Roos’ 6-8 starting forward, Josiah Allick, to just 1 point on 0-7 shooting. Roessink at 6-10 was their only other player above 6-5 to see the floor, and 6 of his 8 points came from beyond the arc. Kaosi Ezeagu and Antonio Gordon had three blocks each, and at the other end Ezeagu scored 11 to go with his 5 rebounds while Montavious Murphy added 6 points off the bench. Freshman Davion Bradford has a long way to go offensively, but his presence added some decent value defensively in eight minutes. Mostly, we’re just happy to see the big guys be a net positive rather than a huge negative. We’ll see if it continues.

Next game: vs. UNLV Saturday, December 5, at 7 p.m. CST.