MANHATTAN — The K-State basketball team (3-0) used a strong start and a typically strong defensive effort to defeat UC Irvine (2-2) by a final score of 71-49 Friday night at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.
The Wildcats started Friday night's game incredibly hot, as it built a 12 point lead after 10 minutes of game action before allowing UC Irvine to slowly get back into the game. K-State head coach Bruce Weber talked about his team's play Friday night.
"We had to use all of our big guys (Friday). I thought they all did some good things for us. We don't need them to be spectacular. (Junior forward Dean Wade) only played for 15 minutes, and we survived that. We had some really nice runs. We answered some questions. It wasn't pretty, but I loved how our guys kept fighting," Weber said.
For the third game this season, K-State's defense held its opponent to 30 percent shooting from the field. UC Irvine only shot 29.6 percent from the field Friday night, and was unable to score a basket through the first five minutes of the game. Sophomore guard Xavier Sneed talked about K-State's early defense Friday night.
"We came out with a lot of energy and a lot of fight. We started off on a big run. We preach that in the first five minutes, we need to come out and punch (our opponent) in the mouth. That's what we did," Sneed said.
Junior guard Kamau Stokes talked about his team's defensive performances this season.
"We take pride in defense because we want to run. When you get stops, you're able to run. Defensively, we take a lot of pride in that. It just kills the opponent when you're playing (great) defense and taking their stuff away," Stokes said.
K-State led UC Irvine by a score of 20-9 with 10:17 left in the first half. Stokes talked about K-State's early offensive explosion Friday night.
"It's always good when shots go in. Our confidence got built up and our offense was flowing," Stokes said.
Stokes led the Wildcats in scoring Friday night with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field. He finished second on the team with three assists, recorded two steals, and grabbed two rebounds. Stokes noted that he wouldn't consider Friday night to be one of his best games this season.
"In my first game I had 10 (points) and seven (assists). I wouldn't say this is (my) best game (this season). There are plenty of games left. I played well this game. We just have to keep it going," Stokes said.
K-State's offense stagnated early in the game when UC Irvine decided to deploy a zone defense that seemed to confuse K-State midway through the first half. Stokes noted that this is the first time his team has seen a zone defense from an opponent this season.
"I think this is the first team that has played zone against us. I feel like we just did not get enough movement. Once we figured it out we knew what passes were open and where the open spots were to get shots," Stokes said.
Weber talked about his team's early struggles against UC Irvine's zone.
"We have not played against zone. So now they are very tentative. We were out under the wildcat (on the center of the court at Bramlage Coliseum) passing the ball back and forth and they talked about getting the ball down the court. We are going to play some zones. We have to be ready to do it," Weber said. "If we go on the road and somebody plays zone, we cannot be tentative. You have to execute and go at it. I thought our guys did well the start of the second half."
K-State only committed eight total turnovers Friday night — the team's lowest total this season. Weber attributed that number to the way UC Irvine plays defense.
"(UC Irvine) doesn't pressure, so it was a pretty different game. We started out both halves pretty well, and then we had four in a row unforced ones (in the second half). Those were kind of in between fast breaks. Sometimes it was too unselfish. I'd rather have them shoot a good pull-up jumper than make a pass when somebody's not looking. Some good things happened (Friday)," Weber said.
Sneed finished second on the team with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting Friday. Sneed led the team in rebounds with five. Redshirt freshman guard Cartier Diarra finished with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field.
The Wildcats will be back in action Monday night, as they will host Northern Arizona at 7 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.