Wildcats make fast start, squeak past Kansas City for first win of season

Sophomore guard DaJuan Gordon throws down a dunk in K-State's 62-58 victory over Kansas City on Monday night. (Photo Courtesy of Scott Weaver | K-State Athletics)

It was a defensive focused game for Kansas State in their first win of the season on Monday night, defeating Kansas City 62-58. Finishing games has been a point of emphasis this season as the Wildcats have failed to pull away from opponents, leading to their 1-2 start in their 2020-21 campaign.

“Our defensive energy went up since the first game,” freshman guard Nijel Pack said. “We brought that same energy that we came out with against Colorado, and we learned to do that for 40 minutes, and that’s what’s going to make us a great team.”

The offense also broke free from some early season frost, with three players finishing in double figures, Pack and sophomore guard DaJuan Gordon leading the way with 14. The Wildcats shot 47 percent from the field, which is the highest shooting percentage this season.

“I was just playing basketball,” Gordon said. “Taking what the defense was giving me.”

Gordon tied his career-high of 15 points against Drake and averages 9.5 points per game this season.

The Roos entered the matchup averaging 103 points per game and seeking the program’s first win over a power-five opponent since 2015 and the first over the Wildcats since 2003.

K-State opened with an early 17-0 lead, but Kansas City’s offense couldn’t make a bucket until the 11:50 mark of the first half. The Roos managed to enter the first half trailing by just 10 points, 33-23, after outscoring the Wildcats 23-16 to end the opening period.

“When we come out and play the right way and come with energy, we get out to a good start,” Gordon said. “Our biggest thing is just sustaining the lead.”

The Wildcats hung on, but the Roos did not make it easy late.

Kansas City stayed within ten points the majority of the second half. Foul trouble limited the Roos starters, which forced the bench to produce. Sophomore forward Hidde Roessink led the bench and was the lone non-starting scorer with eight points.

Some ghosts of games past appeared late in the second half when a three-pointer by Brandon McKissic and a pair of free throws by junior guard Franck Kamgain put the Roos down just 58-52 with three minutes remaining. The Wildcats got 11 points from the charity stripe to seal the 62-58 victory.

The Wildcats came up huge beneath the basket, scoring 24 points in the paint and out-rebounding Kansas City 31-21. K-State managed to capitalize on turnovers, scoring 20 points off 17 Kansas City turnovers, but the Wildcats still turned the ball over themselves, giving it up 18 times.

“We aren’t going to win Big 12 games with 18 or 20 turnovers,” Bruce Weber said. “We have to get that down to ten or so.”

The Wildcats turned the ball over 49 times through three games this season.

Senior guard Brandon McKissic led the Roos with 24 points on the night as Kansas City shot 45 percent from the floor, even after their poor start. Senior guard Zion Williams led Kansas City in rebounds (5) and assists (3). Josiah Allick, the Roos leading scorer coming into the matchup, was limited after accumulating three fouls in the first half.

Gordon and Pack led the Wildcats with 14 points apiece. Gordon was one rebound shy of a double-double, while Pack paced the team with three assists.

K-State has four days to prepare for their showdown with UNLV at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN+. The Wildcats managed to defeat the Runnin’ Rebels 60-56 in overtime last season. The matchup at Bramlage Coliseum will also be the first meeting between the two teams in Manhattan since 1982.