Kansas State couldn’t mask the disappointment of losing its shot at the Las Vegas Invitational title - and it put its frustration to good use, fending off a late rally to win the consolation game. The Wildcats return home with a third-place tournament result under their belts - and with an eye on bolstering their non-conference record as they host Oral Roberts on Wednesday night.
A 92-90 defeat at the hands of unbeaten Arizona State on Thursday was a major gut punch for Kansas State, which shot 57.6 percent from the field and connected on 15-of-32 3-point attempts but surrendered an unbelievable 44 free throws while getting only nine. “They came here to win a championship,” Wildcats coach Bruce Weber told reporters. “That was our goal. I think it really crushed them that we didn’t (get the opportunity).” Kamau Stokes made sure the Wildcats left Sin City with something to cheer about, pouring in 19 points as Kansas State made a nine-point halftime lead stand up in a 67-59 triumph over George Washington. Oral Roberts has dropped six in a row following a season-opening win, and is coming off a 93-86 overtime setback to Oakland.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN3, FSN Kansas City
ABOUT ORAL ROBERTS (1-6): The Golden Eagles have been competitive - three of their previous four losses have come by seven or fewer points - but haven’t been able to end their skid, surrendering two late free throws in regulation and the first seven points of overtime in the loss to the Golden Grizzlies. Senior center Albert Owens paces the offense with 15.1 points per game and had what might be the best game of his collegiate career in the loss to Oakland, erupting for 33 points on 16-of-25 shooting while adding 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Fourth-year guard Austin Ruder contributes 12.4 points as he and Owens combined for 53 against the the Golden Grizzlies after scoring just six points between them in Oral Roberts’ previous game against Penn State.
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (5-1): Third-year guard Barry Brown did his part to keep the Wildcats in the hunt against Arizona State, pouring in a season-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting while knocking down four shots from long range. He leads Kansas State in scoring at 15.2 points per contest with Stokes close behind at 14.8 and Stokes has been on a tear from 3-point range, connecting on 10 of his 15 attempts over his past two games to move to 50 percent for the season. Rim protection has been an issue for the Wildcats, who average just three blocked shots per game, but 6-9 sophomore Makol Mawien might be the answer there as he has seven of the team’s 18 blocks despite averaging just 16.7 minutes.
1. The Wildcats surrender 59 points per game, tied for 13th-fewest in Division I.
2. Kansas State’s 9.3 steals per game rank tied for 22nd in the nation and four players have at least 10 swipes apiece.
3. Oral Roberts forces just 11.4 turnovers per game, tied for 316th in the country.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 88, Oral Roberts 68