MANHATTAN, Kan. | Nothing has come easy for No. 12 Kansas State early this season.
Barry Brown had 15 of his 25 points in the second half and the Wildcats held off Denver 64-56 on Monday night. Brown scored all the points in an 11-0 run that helped K-State stave off an upset bid by the pesky Pioneers.
“I just wanted to help my teammates out,” he said. “We were in a slump and I didn’t feel the energy from our guys so I tried to step up.”
Dean Wade and Xavier Sneed each had 12 points for the Wildcats (2-0), who have won 25 consecutive home games against nonconference opponents. Wade added 16 rebounds and four assists.
Joe Rosga paced the Pioneers (1-1) with 18 points. Ronnie Harrell Jr. and Ade Murkey scored 14 apiece. Harrell also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Kansas State pulled this one out despite shooting 38 percent from the field, including 6 of 27 (22 percent) from 3-point range. The Wildcats were terrible at the foul line, too, going 12 for 27.
“We are too quick on the trigger and we aren’t wearing the defense down at all,” coach Bruce Weber said. “I think some of them were a little rushed and we’ve got to get it inside more.”
Kansas State committed only nine turnovers, though, and forced 17 by Denver.
Sneed got the Wildcats going in the first 10 minutes as he scored seven of the first nine points for Kansas State. It was his first game of the season after sitting out the opener Friday night with an ankle injury.
“It felt good to be back on the court,” Sneed said. “I just keep trying to get better every day and that right now is my main focus and the team, too.”
Denver held a 12-11 lead with nine minutes left in the first half before Kansas State went on a 7-0 run highlighted by Brown’s dunk. The Pioneers kept it close with a 7-0 spurt to end the half and trailed 31-28 going into the locker room.
Denver showed it can compete with a ranked team. The Pioneers will need to play even better in a month when they face No. 3 Gonzaga on the road.
Kansas State struggled with a low-major program for the second straight game, a bit concerning for a team hoping to contend for a Big 12 title this season. The Wildcats will play more lower-tier teams in the Paradise Jam, but those games won’t be in the comfort of Bramlage Coliseum.
Wade provided a big spark on the boards. His 16 rebounds marked the most by a Wildcats player since Jordan Henriquez in the 2012 NCAA Tournament against Syracuse. “I made a big effort to put everything in rebounding since I wasn’t shooting very well tonight,” Wade said.
HE SAID IT
Wade is looking forward to arriving in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the Wildcats will play three games in four days during the Paradise Jam. “I’m just ready to be in the 80-degree weather,” he said. “I think it’ll also get us ready for later in the season when we play lots of games in a few days. Playing in tournaments like these are a basketball player’s dream.”
Denver gears up for a home game against Abilene Christian on Thursday night.
Kansas State travels to the Virgin Islands to participate in the Paradise Jam, where the Wildcats will play Eastern Kentucky in the first round Friday night. A potential matchup with former Big 12 foe Missouri would be Monday night in the championship game if both teams win their first two games in the tournament.
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