Men’s basketball comeback falls short as Wildcats lose to Alabama

Junior guard Cartier Diarra charges the basket for a layup during the men’s basketball game against West Virginia in Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 18, 2020. The Wildcats were able to take the Mountaineers with a final score of 84-68. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

The men’s basketball team’s late comeback fell just short as the Wildcats lost 77-74 to Alabama in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday. The Wildcats entered the matchup seeking its first win on the road in the challenge. The road woes continue as the Wildcats are now 1-4 away from Bramlage this season.

Kansas State jumped out to an early lead in the first half and kept the lead for the majority of the half. Alabama was able to keep the game in reach and finished the half shooting 45 percent from the floor, including 44 percent from three. The Crimson Tide only hit nine shots from the floor, but went 14-18 at the line in the first half alone. K-State took a 37-36 lead at the half despite shooting 38 percent from the floor.

The Wildcats struggled out of the second half when the Crimson Tide went on a 14-0 run, putting the Wildcats in a hole for the majority of the second half. The Wildcats pulled came back within striking distance with their own run, but came up just short of a comeback in Tuscaloosa.

Junior guard Cartier Diarra led the Wildcats with 17 after coming off the bench for the first time this season. Diarra led the Wildcats with four of the 16 assists. Junior guard Mike McGuirl had four assists, four rebounds and seven points in his first game since Nov. 11. Senior forward Makol Mawien finished with a double-double with 12 rebounds and 13 points.

The Wildcats dominated the boards, out-rebounding Alabama 45-33 and limited the Crimson Tide to three offensive boards. Alabama entered the matchup fifth in the nation in rebounds per game, averaging 41 per matchup.

The Wildcats shot 35 percent from the floor and shot 34 percent from three. K-State outscored Alabama inside with 28 points inside the paint. Trips to the free-throw line were sparse for the Wildcats, who finished the night going 12-19 from the stripe.

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. took over the game for Alabama with 26 points. Lewis hit two late shots to help seal the win for Alabama. All of the Alabama starters finished in double digits but had little help from the bench with only eight points off the bench.

The Wildcats held the Crimson Tide to well below their season average of 83 points per game which could be seen as a moral victory going forward.

The Wildcats will host Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN+. The Sooners will be looking to complete a regular-season sweep led by junior guard Austin Reaves, who scored 21 points in the previous matchup this season.