MANHATTAN — When Kansas State needs a highlight play, the type of jaw-dropping dunk or well-timed three that creates excitement for everyone in attendance, the Wildcats turn to Xavier Sneed.
The sophomore wing showed off his play-making skills throughout a 72-51 victory over UMKC on Tuesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
His most memorable highlights came on a driving one-handed dunk and a corner three, which he turned into a four-point play after getting fouled.
“I am an athletic player so those are some parts of my game that you are able to see,” Sneed said. “I hope to keep making them throughout the season and keep providing energy for my team.”
Those baskets provided a needed spark on a night K-State looked anything but sharp.
The Wildcats (2-0) stayed undefeated with the victory, but the Kangaroos (1-2) played them closer than some expected. No. 6 Wichita State thumped UMKC 109-57 last week.
Sneed made sure K-State still did enough to win comfortably by scoring 13 points and grabbing three rebounds.
“Just being able to get a lot of people a lot of minutes being up big and having other guys getting them some touches and experience during games is really big right now,” Sneed said, “because we are going to need them down the road. We also want to give our fans some hope that we are ready to play this year.”
His best moments brought roars from the crowd and led to runs.
The Wildcats needed some of both, because UMKC began the game with more energy than K-State and took an early lead. It was short-lived, but K-State had difficulty pulling away even after it regrouped.
The game didn’t swing its way for good until late in the first half, when Dean Wade hit a layup to give the Wildcats a 21-16 lead. It was oddly his first shot of the game, and it further magnified how important it is for him to play aggressively.
Before his first attempt, the Wildcats clung to a 19-16 lead. Afterward, they went on a 15-4 run and entered halftime with a 34-20 lead.
His offense seemed to create energy for his teammates. That much was evident a few moments later when Sneed drove down the middle of the lane for a tomahawk slam that gave the Wildcats a 25-18 lead. That really fired up the Wildcats.
They also played strong defense, holding UMKC to 26-percent shooting.
“Our defense hung in the whole time. That was very positive,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We never let them get easy shots and made them earn everything.”
“We just were not able to score the basketball,” added UMKC coach Kareem Richardson. “... The offense falls on me. I told our guys that we were too stagnant and we did not have enough movement.”
Barry Brown made some nice shots on his way to a team-high 14 points, Wade finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, and transfer forward Mawdo Sallah had a solid game off the bench. He had 11 points and nine rebounds, coming close to recording his first double-double in a K-State uniform.
Isaiah Ross led the Kangaroos with 12 points and Jordan Giles added eight.
The second half was more of the same, with Sneed supplying energy when the Wildcats needed it. He drained a corner three with 14:44 remaining while being fouled to give the Wildcats a 44-23 lead. His teammates built off that until K-State coach Bruce Weber emptied the bench and finished the game with reserves.
UMKC will hope for a better result when it returns home to take on Loyola-Chicago on Thursday.
K-State will try to keep its winning streak going against UC-Irvine on Friday.
The Wildcats will take a few more highlight plays from Sneed in that one, too.