MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The defending Big 12 Champions took the floor at home for the first time since cutting down the nets last year as Kansas State beat North Dakota State 67-54 on Tuesday night.
Cartier Diarra had 23 points, six rebounds and six assists, Makol Mawien had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds after the Wildcats lost their top three scorers off last year’s team.
“We are a new team and we knew it’d be a really hard game,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “I’m happy for our guys; proud of them.”
Rocky Kreuser led the Bison with 14 points, Tyson Ward had 12 and Sam Griesel was vital, providing eight points and nine rebounds. Kansas State kept 2019 Summit League Tournament MVP Vinnie Shahid quiet as he scored eight points, going 2-12 in the game.
North Dakota State brings back lots of experience from last year, including six of the top seven scorers, but it wasn’t enough to take down Big 12 foe Kansas State.
The Bison, whose season ended in a second-round loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament last season, gave the Wildcats all they could handle while leading the majority of the first half.
“We didn’t come here to get beat by 13 and run out of here with smiles,” North Dakota State coach David Richman said. “There is some encouraging things, to be up at half, to tie a Big 12 team on the glass on the road. There’s some encouraging things to build on.”
The Wildcats played three freshman — Montavious Murphy, Antonio Gordon and DaJuan Gordon. They combined for seven points and 10 rebounds. Murphy led the team in minutes played.
“I felt great,” Murphy said. “I just told myself I was going to come out here and play hard. I just wanted to make sure I played hard and I feel like I did that and we came out with the dub.”
North Dakota State went to the line 25 times, shooting 64%. The Bison kept it close by hitting eight three-pointers, just short of their 9.5 makes per game last season.
The Wildcats proved to be no match for the Bison in the paint, scoring 34 points from inside and holding North Dakota State to 14.
“We talked about dominating two’s and the points in the pain,” Weber said. “We thought that had to be the difference for us.”
Already up by five, the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run in the second half to extend their lead and never looked back.
In the second half, Diarra found Mawien on an alley-oop which sparked the Wildcats as Kansas State used that momentum to close out the Bison.
North Dakota State brings back most of its scoring from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament last year. Don’t be surprised if they are playing on the big stage again this season.
The Wildcats are a much different team than they were last year. K-State will lean on Sneed and Diarra to carry the load.
North Dakota State hosts Mayville State for their home opener at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Kansas State travels to UNLV on Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip-off.