ANALYSIS: K-State put on a defensive masterpiece in its fifth straight win

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Junior forward Xavier Sneed dunks the ball against the Red Raiders to score for Kansas State. On Tuesday, the K-State Wildcats faced off against Texas Tech, winning 58-45 at Bramlage Coliseum. (Emily Lenk | Collegian Media Group)

Two of the top two defenses in the Big 12 Conference squared off on Tuesday night for a chance to tie Kansas for first in the conference. Fortunately, the Kansas State men’s basketball team defeated No. 14 Texas Tech 58-45, the season low for the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech entered the matchup leading the Big 12 as the second-ranked scoring defense in the nation, allowing only 55.8 points per game. K-State entered the game ranked second in the Big 12 and fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 59.2 points per game.

Three players in the matchup on Tuesday were named to the midseason list for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award: K-State’s senior guard Barry Brown along with Texas Tech’s graduate transfer Matt Mooney and graduate transfer Tariq Owens.

The Wildcats have played well defensively throughout the five-game winning streak, holding three out of the last four opponents to their season lows. Brown said defense was a focus for the team versus Texas Tech.

“We wanted to play 40 minutes,” Brown said after the win. “So, coming into today, we wanted to play 40 minutes of hardcore K-State men’s basketball defense.”

After the game, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard had high praise for K-State’s defense.

“It’s all about K-State’s defense,” Beard said. “One team this year has broken 70 on them. We knew it was going to be a difficult game to score.”

The Wildcats held sophomore guard Davide Moretti to six points in 33 minutes on the floor. In the first matchup, Moretti led all scorers with 19 points in a 63-57 win earlier this month.

The Wildcats out-rebounded Texas Tech with 33 rebounds for the night. Twenty-seven of the 33 rebounds were defensive boards, and Brown led K-State with seven boards.

After the game, Brown talked about his outstanding night on the boards.

“I just go out there and do anything possible to help my team win, and tonight was rebounding,” Brown said.

Brown fell one rebound shy of his career high, which was in an eight-rebound game at Iowa State in 2017.

The Wildcats limited the number of scoring runs by Texas Tech. K-State only allowed one 7-0 Red Raider run, and it came early in the first half.

The Wildcats went on three separate runs throughout the game, including late in both halves. The Wildcats went on an 8-0 run that ended with 1:40 remaining in the half, and K-State sealed the game with a 7-0 run that ended with one minute left.

Sophomore guard Mike McGuirl had a quiet, yet outstanding night for the Wildcats. In his 28 minutes, McGuirl scored nine points and helped get key stops in crucial moments.

“Mike’s been pretty good in this game and West Virginia; I think he’s starting to get some confidence,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “The other thing he did was he defended. He really did a good job — all our guys did — of staying in front, making it hard on them.”

McGuirl’s name may not be on the top of the stat sheet, but he is responsible for three deflections, one steal and recovering two loose balls in the game.

The Wildcats will look to continue their success on Saturday against former Big 12 foe Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, in the Big 12/SEC challenge. The game will begin at 1 p.m. on ESPN and on the K-State Radio Network.

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