MANHATTAN — Needing one or more of four big men to emerge as an inside presence, Makol Mawien took a step forward in claiming that role for Kansas State.
Mawien, a 6-foot-9 sophomore transfer from New Mexico Junior College, put together an impressive surge of offense and defense midway through the first half as K-State rolled past American 83-45 in the season-opener Friday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Coach Bruce Weber has stated the Wildcats’ inside game could be a committee of Mawien, Mawdo Sallah and freshmen Nigel Shadd and Levi Stockard. Mawien might be in position to be chairman of that committee, falling one rebound shy of a double-double in his K-State debut with 12 points and nine rebounds while playing 19 minutes.
“It was pretty good,” Mawien said. “Good as a team, everyone chipped in, worked hard, so it was a pretty good debut.
“It was a fun game, a good game.”
Mawien — who redshirted one season at Utah before his one year of junior college — made 5 of 7 shots and was 2 of 5 at the free throw line, collecting five offensive rebounds with only one foul.
“We lost a lot (from) last year between D.J. (Johnson) and Wes (Iwundu), and I feel like Makol can do a lot of positive things that D.J. and Wes did,” said Wildcat point guard Kamau Stokes. “He can rebound, play hard on the inside, do the little things.”
It was the Dean Wade show early as the junior forward hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored on a stickback and a post move to stake the Wildcats to a 19-5 lead. Wade then began distributing the ball, and Mawien was on the receiving end for a pair of layups.
Mawien, who drew the starting assignment at the post position, scored eight points in an 11-6 run that boosted the Wildcats’ lead to 32-15 with six minutes left in the half. He then made his presence known on defense with a pair of blocked shots.
“Makol’s first few minutes were a little tentative,” Weber said. “The second run he got going, blocked some shots. He’s going to have to play stronger against better competition, but this is his debut in the Division I game so it was positive.
“He’s really talented and he’s strong. On the bench press, he’s our strongest guy. He might not look that way and now he has to learn to use that on a daily basis. There were a couple of times he didn’t play as strong as he should. It was good for him. It’s been up and down and hopefully this is a nice confidence builder and he can come back and continue to play well for us.”
Wade scored 15 points and Mawien had 10 points and six rebounds to carry K-State to a 48-19 halftime lead.
K-State continued to pour it on in the second half with the guards getting into the act. The half began with a Barry Brown 3-pointer, and two treys by Stokes made it a 40-point game (65-25) at the under-12 media timeout.
Wade finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3 of 3 treys) and freshmen guard Cartier Diarra followed up his strong exhibition game performances with 13 points, going 4 of 4 behind the arc. Stokes had 10 points and 7 assists and Brown scored 10 points.
Larry Motuzis led American with 17 points.
“There were a lot of positives things in the game,” Weber said. “I loved the energy of our guys. They were ready to play. That’s not easy to go against that (Princeton) system. We only gave up one back-door layup and that was positive. It’s a team that took Maryland last year to the last possession of the game the first game. Our guys came out and played well and continued it in the second half.”
NOTES — Guards Brian Patrick (sprained ankle) and Mike McGuirl were not in uniform, and forward James Love remains sidelined with a medical boot on his right foot. … The Wildcats continue their four-game opening homestand Tuesday against UMKC, which lost 109-57 to Wichita State on Friday.