MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Xavier Sneed had 21 points and six rebounds, Cartier Diarra had seven points and eight assists as Kansas State escaped a scare from Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-51 on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats continue to struggle in the first half and still haven’t led at intermission yet this season.
“If we continue to do that as the competition gets better, we won’t be able to come back,” coach Bruce Weber said. “We’ve had to grind out some things, but we are learning and growing from it.”
Sneed had five 3-pointers and it was the first time he’d scored more than 20 points in a game since leading Kansas State past Kentucky in the Sweet 16 two years ago.
“We’re still getting better and a lot of our guys are learning still,” Sneed said. “We’re all being coachable and that’s the biggest thing right now.”
Marquell Carter led the Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4) with 20 points and nine rebounds as the Lions trailed by just six points with nine minutes left in the game.
This was Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s narrowest margin of defeat this season.
The Lions were without two of their top players, Shaun Doss and Terrance Banyard, who both got injured in the past few days.
“I think we came in with the mindset of how this game would go, but credit to them,” Weber said.
Makol Mawien finished with 10 points and Antonio Gordon provided nine as Kansas State ended with 24 points in the paint and 10 offensive rebounds.
Neither team took care of the ball very well as Kansas State had 16 turnovers compared to Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s 20.
Kansas State (4-0) has relied heavily on Diarra and his ability to see the floor as he set a school record for most assists in the first four games of a season with 27.
“I try to get their eyes off me and make my teammates look better,” Diarra said. “Got to keep passing the ball and getting assists and if they’re making shots that’ll open more shots for me and allow me to attack.”
A zone defense by the Lions proved to be troublesome and the Wildcats posted the fewest point total in a home game this season.
Kansas State was able to make a season high eight 3-pointers and held the Golden Lions to just three.
Both teams had a 12-0 run in the first half, and they were squared at 27 after 20 minutes.
Montavious Murphy didn’t play for the Wildcats due to an injury he sustained against Monmouth last week. He averages five points and five rebounds this season.
“He tweaked his knee in the game last week, but it’s nothing major,” Weber said. “We’re hoping for him to play next week, but we’re not going to push it.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff had too many turnovers to hang with the Wildcats but showed promise after a poor start to the season.
Kansas State’s first half woes continued, but they were able to pull away in the second half.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff plays its third game in six days Thursday when they face Pittsburgh.
Kansas State will take part in the Fort Myers Tipoff in Florida when they take on Pittsburgh on Monday.