MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Barry Brown and Makol Mawien each scored 15 points, Dean Waded added 13 and No. 12 Kansas State stumbled through a season-opening 56-41 victory over Kennesaw State on Friday night.
Austin Trice added 12 rebounds in his debut for the Wildcats, who led just 31-27 at halftime before leaning on their stingy defense to embark on a late run for a comfortable final margin.
The Wildcats won their 24th consecutive non-conference game at Bramlage Coliseum despite playing without Xavier Sneed, one of the heroes of the Elite Eight run last season. Sneed tweaked an ankle in practice Thursday and coach Bruce Weber held him out as a precaution.
Kosta Jankovic had 10 points to lead the Owls (1-1), who committed 21 turnovers and were no match athletically for their Big 12 foe. Kansas State had a 42-12 edge in the paint and 24-4 in transition.
Still, the Wildcats probably could have used Sneed most of the way.
Wade was trapped and double-teamed inside throughout the first half, rendering him ineffective, and nobody else could execute well in the half-court. That left the Wildcats' offense to come almost entirely on the fast break, where Brown proved most successful at running the court.
Trice also got into the act early, making a highlight play by blocking Kennesaw State's Pietro Agostini and taking the rebound to the other end for a scooping layup.
But otherwise, the Wildcats scraped and clawed their way through the first 20 minutes.
Most of their second 20 wasn't a whole lot better.
Kennesaw State answered every time Kansas State tried to go on a run, and Kyle Clarke bookended a basket by Tyler Hooker to get the Owls within 41-37 with 9 ½ minutes to go.
Cartier Diarra finally sparked the Wildcats by taking a run-out, spinning in the lane and getting a layup to go. Wade added a putback, Mawien converted in the paint and Brown scored on yet another fast break as the Wildcats ripped off eight straight points to take a 49-37 lead down the stretch.
Kansas State slowly added to its advantage in the closing minutes.
Kennesaw State: The Owls proved they can hang tough for 30 minutes, but the Wildcats' superior depth began to show in the second half. Kennesaw State also hurt its upset bid with a series of sloppy turnovers, including four in a span of just a few minutes in the second half.
Kansas State: Diarra and Kamau Stokes, the Wildcats' two primary ball handlers, were shut out in the first half. Each finished with two points, going a combined 2 for 10 from the floor, putting some extra pressure on the rest of the team to score.
Kennesaw State: Visits Samford on Monday night.
Kansas State: Plays Denver at Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night.