The “experts” inexplicably predicted both Kansas State and Kansas to be upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Kansas made them look foolish on Thursday with a 34 point win over Northeastern. Kansas State tried to do the same on Friday but things never went their way in what eventually became a 70-64 loss for the Wildcats.
Kansas State clearly missed Dean Wade. The offense hasn’t been great at any point this season but the Wildcats really struggled getting anything going against UC Irvine Friday. To make matters worse, Barry Brown picked up two fouls in the first six minutes of the game and was benched for the rest of the first half.
There was a lot of questioning of Bruce Weber’s strategy to automatically sit a player who gets his second foul in the first half until after halftime. That strategy was part of his coaching that led the Wildcats to a Big 12 conference title this season.
Bruce Weber’s plan was to leave Barry Brown out the rest of the first half unless the Wildcats lost the lead.
I thought as long as we were staying ahead we could stay without him, because he gets that quick third one or something. The two fouls he got were casual — I don’t want to say casual, just kind of happenstance fouls, trying to get — reaching in behind something. And you just didn’t want — we were ahead.Bruce Weber
Regardless of the decision, Barry Brown did not have his typical day. Brown finished 2-for-9 on the day for just five points. He didn’t get to the free throw line once. It wasn’t that he sat out most of the first half. It was just a bad day at the wrong time.
Kamau Stokes was the leading scorer for Kansas State. Stokes scored 18 points, seven of those from the free throw line. His shooting percentage was just 33% so his scoring was more about the number of shots he took (12) and his 7-for-9 from the line.
The brightest spot for Kansas State in this game was Makol Mawien. Mawien went 6-for-11 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line on his way to 14 points. He also pulled down 12 rebounds. His six turnovers were a problem but he was the most efficient offensive player for the Wildcats. Just a junior, Mawien should be a big part of the team next season.
On the day, Kansas State shot just 29.6% from behind the arc and 37.3% overall. UC Irvine shot 39.1% from behind the arc and 44% overall.
Kansas State has a lot to look forward to for next season. Although they will lose Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes, they return several quality players and have a nice recruiting class coming in. They should battle for a spot near the top of the Big 12.