MANHATTAN — Kansas State's reign of second-half terror — and first-half futility — continues.
The Wildcats stayed true to form Tuesday night by waiting until the second period to bury an overmatched opponent, clamping down defensively and waking up on offense in time to knock off Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 62-51, at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Wildcats have yet to lead at halftime in their first four games, yet improved to 4-0 with the victory. They needed a layup from Makol Mawien at the buzzer for a 27-all tie at intermission.
"I really don't get into that," junior point guard Cartier Diarra said of the lackluster first-half performances. "I understand from history, with the experience we've got on this team, that these slow starts are going to pass. We've just got to make shots.
"We're playing defense pretty well. Today wasn't as good of defense in the first half as we usually do, but in the second half we played a lot better and extended the lead and just showing resilience and ultimately coming to a win."
K-State coach Bruce Weber, who has preached patience with his team, still was not as willing to dismiss the first-half struggles as Diarra was.
"I want to get better. I want to play both halves," Weber said. "Because if we do that as the competition gets better, we're going to have ourselves in such a hole we can't come back.
"We've got to watch and figure it out. (At halftime) they all came in and though the game was going to go this way and it didn't. We've got to be a little more poised and a little more patient (and) play with a better pace."
One person who was solid throughout was senior guard Xavier Sneed, who the Wildcats with 21 points six rebounds. He hit 5 of 10 3-pointers against Pine Bluff's zone defense after going 4 of 17 from behind the arc in the first three games.
"I went back in my routine, getting form shots, as coach has always been talking about, helping me out through this week," Sneed said. "I got some good shots up this week (in practice) and found my rhythm."
Even with the halftime tie, the Wildcats made four 3-pointers in the first period after hitting just 1 of 32 combined in the first three games. They were 8 of 23 for the game.
"I thought we did pretty well (against the zone)," Sneed said. "We moved the ball around, found our spots.
"We did turn the ball over a bit too much, but we found the right guys at the right time and made some good plays."
The Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times, 10 in the first half, but had none in the final 12 minutes. Pine Bluff finished with 20 turnovers.
K-State went in front for good, 31-29, on Sneed's free-throw line jumper with 17:30 left, and stretched it to as many as 17 before UAPB made a mini-run at the end.
In addition to Sneed, the Wildcats got 10 points and four rebounds from Mawien, plus nine points from Antonio Gordon and eight from DaJuan Gordon. Diarra had eight assists, giving him 27 for the season — the most through the first four games in school history.
Marquell Carter's 22 points and nine rebounds paced Pine Bluff (0-4), while Markedric Bell had 10 points.
K-State shot just 38.5 percent, but held Pine Bluff to 44 percent and more importantly 0 for 7 from 3-point range in the second half.
K-State used an 11-2 run early in the second half to lead 40-31 on DaJuan Gordon's layup with 11:11 left. UAPB was just 1 of 11 from the field over the first nine-plus minutes, but K-State's six turnovers during the stretch allowed the Golden Lions to stay within striking distance.
After Pine Bluff got it back to five points, K-State used a 9-2 spurt to open its first double-digit lead, going up 10 on Mawien's free throw, then stretching it to 49-37 on a Mawien layup.
The first half was one of wild momentum swings in which K-State led at one point by eight and UAPB by as many as four.
Murphy out, Williams in
Freshman Montavious Murphy, who started the first three games at forward for K-State, did not play against Pine Bluff. Weber said Murphy, who is averaging 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds, tweaked his knee in last week's game against Monmouth and is "day to day."
Shaun Williams, who had been suspended since the start of the season, made his first appearance late in the game, playing just over two minutes and missing both of his shots.