Makol Mawien made a layup and flexed his muscles. Kansas State led Kennesaw State by double digits and the home crowd roared in approval on Friday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Things were going as expected for the Wildcats in their first basketball game of the season … finally.
Though they went on to beat the Owls 56-41, this contest was too close for comfort until the final minutes.
Kennesaw State led at various times throughout the first half and stayed within single digits until K-State found separation with a 6-0 run, capped by Mawien’s layup, with 7 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
The No. 12 Wildcats seized control from there, but it was far from a smooth debut for a team expected to do so much this season.
Dean Wade and Barry Brown helped K-State overcome a poor shooting night that saw the Wildcats make just 25 of 60 shots from the field and 1 of 13 from three-point range. K-State also struggled from beyond the arc in its lone exhibition victory. Perhaps that is a bigger concern than originally thought.
K-State scored most of its points near the rim in this one.
Wade had 15 points and eight rebounds. His highlights included a breakaway dunk in the second half that helped squash any Kennesaw State hope for an upset. Brown finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. He had two impressive dunks and some acrobatic layups.
Mawien was the only other K-State player to reach double figures, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Owls challenged the Wildcats early by making open jump shots, including two three-pointers that went in after hitting the backboard. But their touch didn’t last all night. Once they started missing, the Wildcats took control.
Kennesaw State made 17 of 52 shots. Kosta Jankovic led the way with 10 points.
The first half was much closer than anyone inside Bramlage Coliseum had hoped for.
The Wildcats led 31-27, but they trailed at various times and never controlled the action. Outside of Brown scoring near the rim, points were hard to come by. K-State made 13 of 32 shots from the field and 1 of 6 three-pointers before halftime.
Usual starting wing Xavier Sneed missed this game with an injured ankle, and Cartier Diarra and Kamau Stokes struggled in his place. They each scored a mere two points and struggled to get the offense flowing.
The Wildcats will hope for a more complete effort when they return to action on Monday against Denver at Bramlage Coliseum.