K-State beats Arkansas-Pine Bluff despite slow start

Senior forward Xavier Sneed 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)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team took out Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-51 Tuesday night in Bramlage Coliseum.

Once again, the Wildcats came alive in the second half to overcome a slow first half and beat an inferior opponent.

“I understand from history and with the experience that we got on this team that these slow starts are going to pass,” junior guard Cartier Diarra said. “We gotta make shots, I think we were playing defense pretty well today. It wasn’t as good of defense in the first half as we usually do.”

This time, K-State only managed 27 points in the first half. A layup from senior forward Makol Mawien at the last second tied the game at 27 at half.

Mawien scored 10 points and four rebounds in the game. He also blocked two shots.

“Mak did pretty good,” senior forward Xavier Sneed said. “He was solid down there. He hit is free throws of course, too… He had great minutes for us and did a lot of great things on the defensive end too.”

K-State was on pace in that first half to really take control of the game. They went on a 12-0 run over almost five minutes of play in the middle of the first half and took a 14-6 lead.

Pine Bluff worked their way back into the game over the course of the next seven minutes to eventually regain the lead and keep it neck-and-neck down the stretch of the half.

K-State eventually outpaced the Golden Lions down the stretch of the second half despite the Pine Bluff zone and shooting just 39 percent from the field.

“We didn’t probably get enough flashing in the middle,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought we took some quick shots. They weren’t bad shots, but they were quick and we didn’t make the defense work enough. That’s all part of learning.”

Sneed led K-State with 21 points. He added six rebounds and a steal in his 36 minutes of play. He and Mawien were the only Wildcats in double figures tonight. The bench only provided 18 of the Wildcats points.

Diarra had eight assists and has the most assists through four games of any player in K-State history since they started tracking the stat. His 27 assists in that span beat Tim Jankovich’s 24 assists in 1981-82.

“My teammates make shots for me,” Diarra said. “I feel like that’s going to open it up for me too moving forward and of course take eyes off me so I can attack more. So they are looking for me to pass. That’s the biggest thing and I want to get everybody involved.”

Freshman forward Montavious Murphy was absent after starting the first three games of the year for K-State. Weber described his status as day-to-day after an injury sustained against Monmouth. In his absence, junior forward Levi Stockard III made his first career start.

The Wildcats next action comes against Pitt in the Fort Myers Tipoff Monday night in Fort Myers, Florida. The game will be on FS1.