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K-State Crushes UCF, 77-52, in Big 12 Opener

Raise your hand if you had K-State to win by 25 (or if you are brazen enough to tell a lie that obvious).

Background: Jan 6, 2024; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; UCF Knights guard Shemarri Allen (2) tries to keep the ball from Kansas State Wildcats guards Cam Carter (5) and Tylor Perry (2) during the first half at Bramlage Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell
K-State’s defense, keyed by the efforts of Cam Carter, walled off everything UCF tried to accomplish offensively in it’s first-ever Big 12 conference game.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats welcomed the University of Central Florida Knights to the Big 12 with a 12-0 run to start Saturday’s game and cruised to a 77-52 conference-opening victory in Bramlage Coliseum.

Tylor Perry, who so far has earned a reputation as mostly a late-game player at K-State (11-3, 1-0 Big 12), started the scoring with a three-point basket and was the key to the Wildcats building and maintaining a comfortable lead over the Knights (9-4, 0-1).

Perry led all scorers, posting 25 points on 7-13 shooting, including 6-11 from outside. He had made 6 of 8 before missing his last three attempts. The 25-point outburst was his best showing since transferring to Manhattan this season.

Playing a short rotation, K-State’s three most crucial players carried them in the first half. In the second half, Perry reached a gear previously unseen. After putting up 8 points in the first, Perry drained five three-pointers on the north end of the gym for 17 points in the second. He also tossed 5 assists, grabbed 3 steals, and only committed 2 turnovers in 35 minutes of playing time.

Arthur Kaluma started hot and had 11 at the break, finishing with 14. Cam Carter dropped in 7 before halftime and finished with 12 points and a game-high 6 assists. Will McNair was 3-3 off the bench for six points in the first half and finished with 11 points off the bench.

David N’Guessan missed some close shots, going 1-6 from the floor. But he drained 3 of his 4 free throw attempts (the fact that we mention it show how newsworthy the accomplishment is for DNG) and hauled down 14 rebounds.

The highlight of the game came in garbage time, as RJ Jones found Macaleab Rich for the crowd-pleasing alley-oop to cap K-State’s scoring.

Offense has been sporadic for the Cats all year, and hitting shots—especially three-point shots—certainly makes the game easier. But the team defense should not go without mention. UCF managed only 8-37 shooting in the first half, good for 21.6 percent. They made more shots in the second half, when the game was out of reach, but still only managed 33.8 percent (22-65) for the contest, and 23.8 (5-21) from outside.

The Wildcats used aggressive ball pressure to force the Knights to start the offense well beyond the three-point arc, and they contested passes, dribble penetration, and shots at a high level. K-State blocked 6 shots, led by Carter’s improbable 3 swats. Particularly in the first half, the Knights had to force shots late in the shot clock because they could not get into any offensive flow. The Cats also managed to apply the defensive thumbscrews without fouling. UCF only went to the free throw line five times, to K-State’s 23.

Not everything was rosy. The game got needlessly chippy as UCF players vented their frustrations. UCF’s leading scorer Darius Johnson (10 points, LOL) blatantly shoved Perry with the lower body twice on an inbound play. Perry voiced his objections, leading to the idiotic bailout assessment of a double-technical. But it ended Johnson’s day.

Arthur Kaluma and David N’Guessan were both awarded free throws after flagrant foul calls, as well. UCF appeared unprepared for the environment, the defensive pressure, and the pace of the contest, and they ultimately lost their cool a bit. Omar Payne certainly flirted with a technical foul for screaming over-boisterously after a meaningless shot block in the last three minutes with his team trailing by 25. But the referees must have decided a “T” would be needless piling on.

UCF will get up to speed, in time. But today was a bona fide Caturday, start to finish.

Next Game

K-State travels to West Virginia Tuesday for a 6:00 p.m. tip against the Mountaineers, who are 5-9 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 play after falling 89-55 on the road at No. 3 Houston earlier today.