ANALYSIS: Bench shines in close men’s basketball loss to St. Louis

Junior guard Cartier Diarra dribbles down the court during K-State's men's basketball game against Alabama State in Bramlage Coliseum on Dec. 11, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Hornets with a final score of 86-41. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

The Billikens came into the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri and escaped with a victory.

“That’s a physical, hard-nose, tough grind-it-out game and a hostile environment, Billikens’ head coach Travis Ford said. “When I walked out for the game, it was like, ‘Woah, that’s a big time crowd and a lot of purple with some good blues sprinkled in.”

The Wildcats were held scoreless for the first six minutes of play, trailing the Billikens 9-0 early.

Kansas State fought back, and tied the game at 31 heading into half.

The second half was a different story — K-State turned over the ball 13 times.

In the last five minutes of the game, the Wildcats had five turnovers. This brought the total to 18, which is two turnovers shy of the Wildcats season-high.

“They had a lot of turnovers and we had a lot of turnovers, it was way too many turnovers to give ourselves a chance,” head coach Bruce Weber said.

Senior forward Makol Mawien and redshirt junior guard Cartier Diarra, both starters, struggled to get much production in tonight’s loss to Saint Louis. That being said, the bench responded in a much-needed performance.

Junior forward Levi Stockard III and transfer junior guard David Sloan led the production from the bench, combining for 24 of the 31 bench points.

Stockard was a force to say the least, coming off the bench scoring a career-high 17 points in 28 minutes of play.

“Obviously a tough loss, man, but like I said, I know a lot of them guys,” Stockard said. I’ve played with and I’ve played against a lot of those guys so it gave me a lot of energy. I just wanted to play.”

Sloan also came off the bench tonight and took the assist load with eight from Diarra. Sloan also contributed seven points.

“Like I said, starting out on the bench and just seeing how the defense was playing they were helping a lot. And just finding the right man at the right time,” Sloan said.

K-State was surprisingly poised from the free throw line, knocking down 20-23 free throws to end the night at 87 percent as a team.

Freshman forward Montavious Murphy played in his first game back from a leg injury. Murphy was limited to 17 minutes, where he scored two points, and pulled down one rebound in the 66-63 loss.

St. Louis had three players in double digits tonight, two of which came off the bench.

Freshman guard Terrance Hargrove Jr. and junior forward Javonte Perkins. Hargrove had 10 points, and Perkins had 12.

After a week long holiday break, the Wildcats will be back in Bramlage, Sunday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. to take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Tune into ESPN+.