Well, we certainly know one thing about the Kansas State men’s basketball team six games into this young season.
The Wildcats are quite good at beating the weakest opponents on their schedule.
K-State demolished Albany 71-43 on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum and improved to 4-2. That gives Bruce Weber’s team four lopsided victories against nonconference foes rated in the bottom 50 of Ken Pomeroy’s national basketball rankings.
The Great Danes (1-6) entered this game ranked 306th and were no match for the Wildcats after taking a slim lead in the early minutes.
Nijel Pack led the way for K-State by hitting five three-pointers and scoring 17 points, but Mark Smith seemed to shine brightest for the Wildcats in this game. The Missouri transfer did a little bit of everything on his way to 14 points and 10 rebounds.
His best play of the evening came on a slam dunk after he grabbed a rebound and threw the ball down before his feet touched the ground.
That brought the home crowd to life and left Albany coach Dwayne Killings searching for answers.
Selton Miguel also delivered a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
K-State remains a bit of a mystery right now, though. Its two losses came against ranked opponents on a neutral floor. Can the Wildcats beat the strong teams on their schedule, too?
We may get an answer on Sunday when they take on Wichita State at Intrust Bank Arena.
Here are some key takeaways from K-State’s most recent win of the season:
Best game yet from Mark Smith
Perhaps the best way to describe Smith’s play as a K-State “super senior” is by calling him a jack of all trades.
The 6-foot-4 Missouri transfer did a little bit of everything for the Wildcats on Wednesday. He scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had two assists. He also played strong defense by drawing a few charges and blocking a shot.
It was his second consecutive double-double.
Not many K-State fans expected this much versatility from Smith. At Missouri, he was known mostly as an outside shooter who occasionally got hot and helped the Tigers win. But he’s doing much more than that for the Wildcats.
“At Missouri he was kind of more of a just catch-and-shoot guy, but I saw over the summer as he came in and developed that he was becoming versatile enough to get to the basketball and use his athleticism,” Pack said. “I knew he could help us really this year. He is able to stretch the floor out and get to the basket and get rebounds.”
Indeed. In Manhattan, Smith is not afraid to drive to the basket or make physical plays.
That much was evident during two nifty baskets in the paint. The first came when he missed a layup but showed enough determination to chase down the rebound and convert a put-back shot at the rim. A few moments later, he had a put-back dunk.
Smith screamed with emotion after both plays. He seems to be enjoying his new role.
Weber expected this. The first thing Smith told him when during the transfer process was that he wanted to be more active with his new team.
Still, 20 rebounds in two games has been impressive.
“The thing that surprised me about him is his athleticism and his strength,” Weber said. “I always tell him he’s a man child and he needs to use that body.”
A block to remember
Just about everyone who saw the floor for K-State in this game ended with a highlight of some kind, but none of them compared to the stunning defensive play Markquis Nowell came up with late in the first half.
It happened when Albany’s Jamel Horton, who stands 6-foot-4, attempted a layup in front of the basket. Nowell, who stands 5-foot-8, anticipated the shot perfectly and knocked the ball out of bounds from behind.
Horton seemed shocked when he lost the ball. His face looked even more puzzled when he realized Nowell was the K-State player who swatted his shot. He stared Nowell down for a few seconds as if he was trying to make sense of what just happened.
It was the third block of his college career and his first since his sophomore year at Arkansas-Little Rock two seasons ago.
Slow start raised some concerns
The Wildcats played so well in the second half that it didn’t matter, but they trailed in the early going and were tied with the Great Danes at the 6:35 mark of the first half.
Scoring droughts and turnovers were the main two reasons why.
“Obviously, it wasn’t a stellar first half with the turnovers,” Weber said. “Some of them were unforced. If you cut those down, the way we’ve shot the ball lately, you’re hoping to add 8-to-10 points on and now it’s a whole different game.”
K-State finished with 16 turnovers and only made 46% of its shots. Those shortcomings could hurt the Wildcats in future games against stronger competition.