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Why Kansas State's 73-54 win over Monmouth left Bruce Weber searching for answers

Wichita eagle logo Wichita eagle 11/14/2019 By Kellis Robinett, The Wichita Eagle

No matter what you think about Kansas State following a 73-54 victory over Monmouth on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum, one thing is undeniable: The Wildcats are one of the nation’s best second-half teams.

Problem with that is, they are also one of the country’s worst first-half teams.

K-State has trailed at halftime in all three of their games this season and looked miserable while doing so. They managed to flip the script in all three of those games and played with enough energy to rally and win for a 3-0 start, but they made things more difficult against inferior competition.

How different have the Wildcats been in each half?

K-State opened with 21 points against North Dakota State, 16 points at UNLV and then 20 points against Monmouth for a total of 57 points. The Wildcats have been particularly bad from the three-point line, going 1 for 32. That’s some ugly basketball.

And yet, they closed with 46 points against NDSU, 32 points at UNLV and 53 points against Monmouth for a total of 131 points. That’s much better.

When asked about the stark differences Wednesday night, K-State coach Bruce Weber threw up his hands and said “I have no idea.”

“They have to answer,” Weber said of K-State players. “I just left it as a generic question. Were you ready? I thought they were, but obviously it wasn’t very good in the first half.”

No, it wasn’t. The Wildcats fell behind 29-20 at halftime and looked like they were sleepwalking in front of an announced crowd of 7,635.

Monmouth shot the ball better, rebounded the ball better and sent out more assists. It felt like the Hawks might have a real shot at an upset when Traore Mustapha finished off the first half with a layup to extend their lead.

But then K-State returned to the court and slapped Monmouth around like a high school team, using a 37-6 run to win the second half 53-25. The Wildcats quit jacking up threes and attacked the basket for positive results.

What changed?

“I just think it’s the speed of the game,” freshman forward Montavious Murphy said. “I feel like we just come out and take things for granted, but we have to come out in the second half and just always play hard. So I think we should just come out and play harder in the first half and lock in.”

But it’s clear K-State knows how to make halftime adjustments.

“At halftime before the coaches come in, we talk and the guys on the bench see what the guys on the court are not doing,” junior guard David Sloan said. “We just communicate, and they go in there and the first five minutes and adjust. Then we come off the bench and try to just pick up where they’ve left off.”

Weber hoped he could get his team’s attention by referencing Evansville’s recent upset at No. 1 Kentucky before the start of this game, but it didn’t work.

“We have been a second-half team,” Weber said. “I don’t know exactly what it is.”

Perhaps the Wildcats are still adjusting to a new roster that includes three freshmen and one junior-college transfer. Whatever the case, they will need to find some answers soon. They get one more warm up game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff next week before leaving for the Fort Myers Tipoff, where they will face Pittsburgh and either Bradley or Northwestern.

It’s nice to be a second-half team. But they will need more complete efforts to keep winning when they face stronger competition.


©2019 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

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