K-State basketball to take on UMKC

Staff Writer
Salina Journal
Kansas State forward Montavious Murphy defends against Colorado's Jeriah Horne during Friday's game at Bramlage Coliseum.

MANHATTAN — If the Little Apple Classic served as a tutorial for Kansas State's basketball team, then a matchup with Monday night with Missouri-Kansas City should provide a perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to show what they learned.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum.

The young Wildcats, 0-2, suffered back-to-back losses to Drake and Colorado last week, but showed signs against the Buffaloes that they were headed in the right direction before faltering in the second half.

Kansas City is 2-1, breaking the 100-point mark in victories over NAIA school Culver-Stockton and NCAA Division III Greenville, before coming back to earth Saturday with a 71-66 loss to Southeast Missouri State.

"They'll come in here and play hard, there's no doubt about it," K-State coach Bruce Weber said of the Kangaroos. "I just want to focus on our energy, our effort and make progress that way."

The Wildcats' energy level, a concern following an 80-70 loss to Drake last Wednesday, improved dramatically in the Colorado game before the Buffs wore them down late and pulled away for a 76-58 victory.

Freshman point guard Nijel Pack insisted that the Wildcats are headed in the right direction.

"I see us still as a great team, a very young team that's still learning," said Pack, who led the Wildcats with 12 points against Colorado, despite missing the last 10 minutes of the first half after taking a shot to the head. "We definitely made a big improvement from the first game against Drake.

"I feel like we came out with more energy, defensively we played together. I just feel like it's a long season, so we'll be able to work together more and more and practice together more and more on things, and we'll be able be great by the end of season."

The Wildcats have started lone senior guard Mike McGuirl along with three sophomores and freshman Pack in the first two games.

"I definitely think we're improving as a team and it showed today," said forward Antonio Gordon, who replaced fellow sophomore Montavious Murphy in the starting lineup against Colorado. "Especially in the first half it felt like everything was clicking.

"So when we put it together for two halves, I feel like we'll be a dangerous team."

The Wildcats led Colorado by 13 points midway through the first half. Colorado answered with a 14-point run to briefly grab the lead, but K-State still had a one-point advantage at halftime.

McGuirl leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game, followed by Pack with 10.5, including 7-of-11 accuracy from 3-point range.

Kansas City, which beat Culver-Stockton105-35 and Greenville 138-97, has four players averaging double figures, led by sophomore forward Josiah Allick with 19 points and senior guard Marvin Nesbitt with 14.7.