MANHATTAN — If there has been a theme for the K-State basketball team through its first two games, it is that a new big man will step up. In the season opener against American Nov. 10, it was sophomore transfer forward Makol Mawien, who scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in an 83-45 Wildcat victory. Tuesday night, graduate transfer forward Mawdo Sallah stepped up, contributing 11 points and nine rebounds to help K-State (2-0) to a 72-51 victory over UMKC (1-2) at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.
“Every day it is someone different. Every team you play it is someone different. (Tuesday) was my day, and (Nov. 10) it was (Mawien). We’ve just got to step out here and try to win a ballgame. (Mawien) got in foul trouble early and I had to step up and fill his shoes. That’s what I did,” Sallah said.
Of Sallah’s team-leading nine rebounds Tuesday night, three came on the offensive side of the floor to create scoring opportunities. Sallah talked about how his work on the offensive glass helped his team Tuesday.
“(K-State head coach Bruce Weber) always preaches rebounding. That’s always one of our keys for every game. I just go out there and try to execute the game plan,” Sallah said.
Weber talked about Sallah’s performance Tuesday night.
“I texted him before the game and said that in those first couple of exhibition games he did not get any rebounds and that these last few games he has gotten some rebounds. I said that if you focus on rebounding and getting better defensively that the other stuff will come and tonight he gets 11 points. He does have a nice touch on those little short jumpers but I am not going to let him shoot threes. Probably more important is his maturity. When I went to make a home visit, my flight was delayed and I saw him at 1 a.m. To his credit he stayed up and we talked. But I went back to the coaches and said ‘One of the reasons we need him is because we need him for our locker room’. We need his leadership because he is older and mature. I also liked that he kept a great attitude because he wanted to start, but (Mawien) played well the other day so he started,” Weber said.
Sallah’s work in the first half, where he scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds, helped K-State overcome an ugly start. The Wildcats only led by a score of 34-20 at the break.
K-State shot 40 percent from the field in the first half, and also shot 40 percent from the field through the game. Weber talked about K-State’s offensive struggles Tuesday.
“To (UMKC head coach Kareem Richardson)’s credit, they switched everything. We had not prepared for that. They bogged us down a little bit. We had some quick shots early. Our defense hung in the whole time. That was very positive,” Weber said.
For the second game in a row, K-State’s defense was terrific. After holding American to 30 percent shooting from the field in the season opener, K-State held UMKC to 23 percent shooting from the field Tuesday night. Weber talked about his team’s defense Tuesday.
“(Sophomore forward) Xavier (Sneed) and (junior guard) Barry (Brown) are very good defensive stoppers. You’re going to have to have pretty good guards to get by them. (Junior forward) Dean (Wade) is much stronger. He knows stuff, and he’s smart. I thought (Sallah and Mawien) have given us an inside presence the last two games. Our coaches do a great job preparing. We just never let them get easy shots. We made them earn everything, which is good. Our defense gives us a chance to win close games,” Weber said.
Sallah talked about K-State’s defense Tuesday.
“It was a bit scrappy on our part. We didn’t feel like we guarded them great. We’ve still got stuff to work on, but it was great to hold them to (23 percent). We play hard. That’s the culture here. We’re really showing that on the court,” Sallah said.
Brown led K-State in scoring Tuesday with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field. Sneed finished second with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Wade scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.
K-State will be back in action Friday night as it will take on UC Irvine at 8 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.