MANHATTAN — Kansas State jumped out to a big, early lead. Nothing new this season against a pillowy soft nonconference schedule.
What did buck a recent trend is the Wildcats kept pushing forward, not letting USC Upstate make a run to have even the slightest hope of getting in contention.
From an opening 14-0 run, the Wildcats rolled to an 86-49 victory over the Spartans on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats (8-1) squandered big portions of early leads in recent games but were able to hold on, losing only a two-point decision to Arizona State. This time, the Cats kept their foot on the gas with a high level of energy and intensity.
“I thought we played hard,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We had guys actually take themselves out. We were ready to play; there was great energy. We did not have great energy in the locker room against Oral Roberts and I challenged them Sunday coming back (from Vanderbilt) that we’re only going to (practice) an hour (Monday) but I want you to come with energy in the game.”
Upstate (3-8) played Game 6 in an eight-game road swing that didn’t include earlier losses at Minnesota (by 15 points) and Georgia (by nine).
“We were flying around,” Weber said. “They (Spartans) average 80 points and we really limited what they did.
“I was happy that we were able to keep the foot on the pedal and keep extending the lead. The big challenge at halftime was win the second half and we did that.”
Using hot shooting and suffocating defense, the Wildcats took that 14-0 opening lick up to 24-2 and then 27-4 en route to a 43-23 halftime lead behind a 15-point half from Kamau Stokes, who did all of his scoring behind the 3-point line on 5-of-6 shooting.
“We watched video and we saw where the open shots were going to be so I just tried to take advantage of that opportunity,” Stokes said. “Everybody was making shots and when you have good energy and movement on offense, shots fall.”
The second half began with Barry Brown knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. K-State then got a bit sloppy with four turnovers by the first media timeout at 15:42 – they had only three turnovers the first half – but held a 53-34 lead.
A 15-6 spurt, featuring seven consecutive points by Mawdo Sallah, pushed the lead to 28 points and the Wildcats’ final margin grew to 37 points as the bench closed it out.
“It was fun,” Brown said of the fast start, “especially continuing that when we have that big lead at the end and we can get the other guys in and let them see what it’s like out there on the court. The scout squad works hard every day so for us to come out and build that lead so they can get in is great.”
Stokes finished with 17 points and five assists; Brown had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and Wade had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Malik Moore led the Spartans with 16 points.
“I felt like we put two halves together today,” Brown said. “We had some slip-ups and some miscommunication but ultimately I feel like we came to play.”