MANHATTAN — This one was easy.
The next one won’t be.
For now, Kansas State will hope it can build off the 72-43 victory it earned against Troy on Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum.
“It was a good day for K-State,” second-year coach Bruce Weber said. “We wrote on the board ‘energy, effort, persistence and then play as a team.’ I think we had great energy and set the tone for the game from the beginning with our defense.”
The Wildcats (7-3) have won five straight, looking good at times and mediocre at others. They handed Mississippi its first loss and beat Central Arkansas and Troy (4-4) by wide margins. They also struggled with South Dakota and lost three games early. Offense continues to be a concern. Defense remains strong.
We may learn more about this K-State team in its next game.
On Saturday, the Wildcats will face a ranked opponent for the first time when they take on No. 20 Gonzaga at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita. The Bulldogs have won six in a row and are off to a 10-1 start, with victories over West Virginia, Arkansas and Washington State.
“They smacked us last year pretty bad in Seattle,” Weber said. “It was a good learning tool for our team. Mark Few’s teams keep getting tougher.… It will be nice to have a great crowd there on Saturday and to use that as an energizer and see if we can pick up a win against a top-rated team.”
It will take a quality effort from K-State to win, but it will have a shot if it plays the way it did Sunday.
“We have been practicing a lot better,” said senior guard Will Spradling, who scored 14 points. “Players are starting to really learn their roles and understand how we want to play and what works for us.”
The Wildcats jumped all over the Trojans and took a 14-2 lead less than 4 minutes in and never looked back. Spradling, who hasn’t scored much this season, sank open shots throughout; Marcus Foster showed aggressiveness while scoring 14 points, and everyone on the roster shared the basketball.
K-State finished with 24 assists and nine turnovers.
“We really moved the basketball,” Weber said. “The best stat on the stat sheet was 24 assists 28 baskets. Almost every shot we made came off an assist.”
That performance, combined with a solid defensive effort that forced 16 turnovers, allowed K-State’s starters to rest for much of the second half.
“They are so consistent defensively that they took us out of everything we tried to do,” Troy coach Phil Cunningham said. “The game really got away from us.”
That was obvious when seldom used Ryan Schultz and Brian Rohleder both scored.
K-State led 37-15 at halftime, and Troy never threatened. It was a drama-free buildup to what might be the most compelling nonconference game on the schedule.