MANHATTAN — All it took for the Kansas State Wildcats to find their lost shooting touch was to move closer to the basket.
Once they did, everything else fell into place.
The result was an impressive second half for the Wildcats, who erased a one-point halftime deficit and pulled away late to open the regular season Tuesday night with a 67-54 victory over North Dakota State at Bramlage Coliseum.
After making just one-third of their shots in the first half, including 1 of 12 3-pointers, the Wildcats bounced back to shoot 51.6 percent after the break with five threes while holding NDSU in check throughout.
"We're a new team, and we knew this would be a really hard game," said K-State coach Bruce Weber, whose Wildcats lost their top three scorers from a year ago and faced a veteran North Dakota State team that made the NCAA Tournament last season. "I'm happy for our guys — proud of them.
"When you schedule them, especially as an opener, and you're trying to figure things out, it probably wasn't the best decision on my part. But it's good for us, we fought through it (and) we guarded the heck out of them."
K-State held the Bison below 30 percent shooting in each half, but the big difference was offensive efficiency at the other end.
After trailing 22-21 at intermission, the Wildcats attacked the basket to start the second half, hitting five of their first six shots. Cartier Diarra opened the period with a hard drive to the basket for a three-point play and after Rocky Kreuser's 3-pointer for the Bison, Xavier Sneed went to the hoop for another layup.
"We weren't making the easy plays," said Diarra, who led the Wildcats with 23 points and six assists, plus six rebounds. "We were taking a lot of threes and I know at halftime we were 1 for 12.
"I would like to say if the first six ain't falling, we just need to dig deep and get in the paint, which was working. I got layups early, which is how I got my points to end the half and Mak (Makol Mawien) had a good night going to the basket. We noticed that the jump shot wasn't falling, so we've got to dominate twos — that's what coach stresses all the time."
Mawien finished with a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Sneed added nine points and six rebounds.
The game plan all along was to attack the basket, but it required a reminder from Weber at halftime. The Wildcats needed a pair of acrobatic drives from Diarra at the end of the half to cut the deficit to one.
"They didn't score for seven minutes to end the half (one basket in the last eight minutes) but we didn't score, either," Weber said. "But until Carti makes a couple of plays at the end and we get it to one, coming back out I thought we settled down.
"We showed them on the board, we're one for 12 from three. Why not dominate twos? We win 34-14 in the paint, so I think kind of figuring it out as a team."
The shooting success to start to the second half eventually extended beyond the arc, where DaJuan Gordon's 3-pointer with 11:55 left gave the Wildcats some breathing room at 41-36. Mike McGuirl hit another 51 seconds later and the lead was eight.
Those threes started a string of five straight makes for the Wildcats, who did not let North Dakota State closer than five the rest of the way.
K-State, outrebounded by six in the first half, came back to even it at 39 at the end of the game. The Wildcats also got six boards from freshman Montavious Murphy in a team-high 33 minutes.
For North Dakota State, Kreuser led the way with 14 points, but had just five in the second half. Forward Tyson Ward, who picked up three early fouls, had all 12 of his points after intermission and point guard Vinnie Shahid all eight of his before the break.
K-State has a quick turnaround before going on the road to face UNLV at 3 p.m. Saturday in Las Vegas.