Growing pains and new roles evident in opening games for K-State basketball

Junior guard Cartier Diarra scans the court for an open play during K-State's men's basketball game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Bramlage Coliseum on Nov. 19, 2019. The Wildcats came back strong in the second half and defeated the Golden Lions 62-51. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

K-State defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-51 at Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday night in the final tune-up before heading to Fort Myers to face off against Pittsburgh next week.

K-State has been struggling to get the hot start in the opening games of the season. The 4-0 Wildcats have yet to lead a game at the half this season. K-State entered the half with the score tied for the first time this season on Tuesday.

“We got to make shots. We’ve been playing defense pretty well. We weren’t as good of a defense in the first half as we usually are,” Cartier Diarra said about the first half struggles. “The second half, we’ve been playing a lot better, extending the lead and just showing resilience, and ultimately getting the win. If we win the game, that’s all that matters to me.”

Getting better is the trend of the season for the Wildcats so far. K-State has brought in five new players, three are freshmen and have seen significant minutes in the opening games.

K-State is a young team this year, and there are growing pains that also came with the significant transition of last year’s senior class, but for this current team, new roles have been evident.

With the young players finding their identity, the experienced players, like Cartier Diarra, have been embracing new roles.

“The key isn’t that we have to be patient with the young guys like we talked to Cartier, he’s in a totally different role, and he’s trying to do what we say,” Weber said.

Diarra has embraced his role of distributing the ball with 26 assists in the first four games of the season, the most in school history through the first four games of the season. The junior point guard dished out a career-high eight assists against the Golden Lions.

The Wildcats have struggled to hold on to the basketball with 16 turnovers in the game against the Golden Lions. This is not the season-high for K-State. The season-high came on the road against the University of Nevada Las Vegas. The Wildcats turned the ball over 25 times in the win.

“We did turn the ball over a little bit too much, but I think we found the right guy at the right time and made some good plays,” senior forward Xavier Sneed said after the game.

Despite the struggles turning over the ball, the Wildcats have managed to remain undefeated, and the mentality of the team is improving heading into more competitive matchups.

“I think we are still getting better, you know, still got a lot of people still learning a lot of different things for us,” Xavier Sneed said. “Everybody is taking on the challenge of learning and just taking everything day-to-day and being coachable, so I think we are still on the right path of getting back to where we are supposed to be.”

In 2015 when Dean Wade, Barry Brown, and Kamau Stokes were freshmen, the Wildcats struggled in the Big 12, finishing eighth in the conference and eventually developed into Big 12 champions. This is a young team with a lot of talent, and there will defiantly be some growing pains similar to the 2015 team throughout the season.

Growth in the opening of the season has been crucial for K-State, and the next few games will be a true test for the young Wildcats. Matchups against Pittsburgh and Marquette before heading into conference play.

The Wildcats will play Pittsburgh next Monday in the Fort Myers Tip-off; the game is scheduled for 5 p.m on Fox Sports One.