Sophomore wing Xavier Sneed is fast becoming a difference-maker for Kansas State, which concludes its non-conference schedule on Wednesday in Spokane against Washington State. Sneed is averaging 19.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over his last two games to spark a Kansas State team that has won five of its last six contests.
Sneed helped the Wildcats bounce back from a loss to Tulsa by making four 3-pointers and finishing with a career-high 23 points and seven rebounds in last Saturday’s 89-71 win over Southeast Missouri State. “I like that he is being confident and being aggressive,” teammate Dean Wade told reporters. “If the shots do not fall, he is still being aggressive with everything. Rebounding, he’s athletic so you just throw it toward the rim anywhere and he’s probably going to be at the other end dunking it.” Kansas State, which opens Big 12 play Dec. 29 at Iowa State, figures to be tested by a Washington State team that has sputtered following a surprising 6-0 start. Forward Robert Franks averages a team-high 18.3 points for the Cougars, who snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s 72-59 win over IUPUI.
TV: 11 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (9-2): One of several bright spots in the win over Southeast Missouri State was the play of sophomore forward Makol Mawien, who turned in an encouraging effort with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with four rebounds. The Wildcats would love to see Mawien play with more consistency next to the 6-10 Wade, who is averaging 13.5 points on 58.5 percent shooting. The Wildcats’ strong backcourt includes Kamau Stokes, who had 12 points and a career-high nine assists in Saturday’s win and leads the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (7-3): After three ugly losses to UC Davis, Idaho and UTEP, coach Ernie Kent made some adjustments to create more opportunities for 6-8, 235-pound forward Drick Bernstine, who responded with nine points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in the win over IUPUI. “I tweaked my offense because I’m kind of tired of seeing us play so slow,” Kent told reporters. “Drick is the fastest guy with the ball. The plays he made on the floor gets everybody involved because he’s big, he’s strong.” Bernstine’s emergence could help draw attention from guard Malachi Flynn, who ranks second on the team in scoring at 15.4 per game.
1. Kansas State holds a 5-2 edge in the series, including a 70-56 victory in Kansas City on Dec. 10, 2016.
2. Washington State ranks fifth nationally in made 3-pointers at 11.7 per game.
3. Kansas State has led at the half in each of its first 11 games.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 82, Washington State 78