A sloppy, listless start to Kansas State’s midweek matchup with the Albany Great Danes had Coach Bruce Weber fuming. At the first media timeout, he chided his team for having four turnovers in four minutes. At the second, he lambasted them for committing eight in the game’s first eight minutes. The message finally got through, as K-State only lost the ball eight more times the rest of the way in their 71-43 pasting of Albany.
Albany entered the night ranked No. 306 by KenPom, and the Wildcats’ early effort seemed to be testing the theory that they could play terribly and still win. It was not working out so well, as the visitors actually led early and were tied with the Cats, 17-17, with just over six minutes left to play in the first half. But Markquis Nowel would hit a three-pointer, then assist Ismael Massoud on a jumper. Kaosi Ezeagu would make a layup and a dunk, and Pack would finish off an 11-0 run with a drive and layup of his own to open a 28-17 margin. Albany would get back within 9 at the break, but the game was never again in doubt.
Just as he had to open the game, Pack started the scoring for K-State in the second stanza with a three. Mark Smith would score the next eight Wildcat points, including two three-pointers, to extend the lead to 40-22, and the rout was officially on.
Albany’s shortcomings had a lot to do with the Wildcats’ success. The Danes shot only 31.5% from the floor, including a horrid 1-18 performance from outside the arc. At least three Albany players were recipients of the “Airball” taunt, though open shots were frequently available.
After early carelessness, K-State finished the night with only 16 turnovers, offset by 15 assists. They shot 46.4% (26-56) overall, but a respectable 38.5% (10-26) from three-point range. They outrebounded the smaller Great Danes (odd oxymoron, that!) 48-27, with the highlight being a follow-slam by the aforementioned Smith trailing a missed layup by Nowell.
The only intrigue late in the game came when Albany’s Ny’Mire Little instigated a verbal feud with Pack. Nijel appeared to say little or nothing, but that did not stop the officials from assessing a double foul, as they seem only too wont to do, availability of video review be damned. Two possessions later, Pack let his game do the talking, burying his fifth three of the night from the left corner. Pack finished with a game-high 17 points, shooting 6-11 overall and 5-8 from deep. (The talker, if it matters, scored 7 on 3-10 marksmanship. Not sure what the bravado was all about.) Pack also had 5 rebounds, three assists and a steal. He was guilty of one of K-State’s turnovers.
Pack’s solid performance notwithstanding, the story of the night might have been Smith and Selton Miguel, both of whom finished with double-doubles. Smith had 14 points and 10 boards. Miguel had 12 and 10. It was the first time two Wildcats posted a double-double in the same game since Thomas Gipson and Wesley Iwundu turned the trick in at 77-61 loss at Oklahoma State in 2014.
De’Vondre Perry was the only Albany player to reach double figures, with 11.
Three in the Key
- These mismatches are never particularly appealing, and this one was a complete stinker early on. The difference this season from previous years is that the Wildcats so far have found a way to demolish inferior competition, rather than fiddling around with them from start to finish (and sometimes, even finding a way to lose—ahem, Fort Hays State). We probably should not put much stock in the outcome of these games, which tell us little about the Cats’ ability to beat competitive teams. But they do allow Bruce to play the full roster, mix-and-match, and try out combinations that could be helpful as the year progresses.
- Speaking of mixes and matches, one that looks to be fruitful is Nowell at the point with Pack running off screens and getting open on the wings. Miguel has also proven adept at breaking down defenses off the dribble and finding open shooters or dunkers. The chemistry of the squad is still developing, but we are seeing much more diverse scoring options this year than last. The key is several players being able to create, while being aware enough and unselfish enough to share the ball for the easy bucket. It’s a welcome improvement from the days of dribble in place for 20 seconds and heave a prayer.
- Things get real in the coming week. K-State will first visit the Shockers at InTrust Arena in Wichita Sunday. The Shockers have been a work in progress so far this season. But tonight they held the Oklahoma State Cowboys without a field goal for the last five minutes of game time and escaped Gallagher-Iba arena with a 60-51 win. Noted K-State destroyer Isaac Likekele was held to three points, so the Shocks must not be intimidated by strong guard play, which has been K-State’s strength. After that, The Cats come home next Wednesday to face a 7-1 Marquette team team that has already beaten West Virginia, Mississippi, and then-No. 10 Illinois. K-State needs to find a way to win at least one of those games or the upcoming tilt against Nebraska to have any non-conference resume worth considering if it hopes to be an NCAA tournament team.