KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas State slowly, methodically broke down Washington State on Saturday night.
It probably shouldn't have been a surprise.
The Cougars were already playing without forward Jeff Pollard, who has mono, and Viont'e Daniels, who is dealing with the effects of a concussion. But then the news hit earlier in the day that Derrien King intends to transfer at the semester, leaving coach Ernie Kent's bench even more short-handed on the road.
“Any time a player leaves, it hurts your team,” Kent said after the Wildcats rolled to a 70-56 victory at the Sprint Center, “and yet you're in an era of transferring and he made the decision to do that.”
It left Washington State with eight guys to match up with a deep, balanced bunch of Wildcats, though, and the Cougars certainly looked tired by the time the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Wesley Iwundu had 15 points and eight rebounds, Barry Brown had 14 points, Dean Wade contributed 11 and Xavier Sneed finished with 10, all those scoring options helping Kansas State (9-1) overcome a lousy first-half shooting performance to win its 16th consecutive non-conference home game.
It was also the Wildcats' third straight win over the Cougars.
“We were trying to do stuff all on our own,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Our defense was solid again, but we didn't do the things we needed to do offensively in the first half. Much better in the second.”
Indeed, Washington State (5-5) controlled almost the entire first half, never trailing until the final couple of minutes. But Kent's team fell behind 28-26 headed into the locker room, and kept slipping farther behind during the second half, when the Wildcats heated up from the perimeter.
They were 2 of 9 from three-point range in the first half. They were 7 of 13 in the second.
“I think offensively we just came out slow, everybody was trying to probably put up the ball to see how it was going to go,” Brown said. “In the second half we just made the right play, made the simple passes and we were able to make some shots.”
Josh Hawkinson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Cougars. Charles Callison also scored 10.
In truth, there weren't many bright moments in the first half for either team — at one point, they combined for one field goal over a five-minute stretch. Turnovers were also a problem with the teams giving it up five times during that same abysmal period.
But once the Wildcats assumed their first lead with 43 seconds left before halftime, they never trailed again. Their lead approached 20 points midway through the second half before coasting down the stretch.
“I thought the game was a tale of two halves,” Kent said. “We played I thought some really good basketball, probably our best basketball of the year in the first half and kept our composure. I thought Kansas State in the second half did a great job to keep their composure.”
STATS AND STREAKS
The Wildcats' Kamau Stokes had just four points on 2-for-10 shooting. He was 0 for 5 from beyond the arc. … Washington State's starting guards, Malachi Flynn and Charles Callison, were a combined 4 for 15 from the field. … Kansas State had a 30-16 scoring advantage in the paint.
Washington State probably knew it would be a struggle when it had a tough time beating Carroll College in an exhibition game. But the Cougars' only wins since mid-November have come against Utah Valley and Idaho, with losses to Loyola, San Jose State and New Orleans along the way.
Kansas State has built a glossy record thanks to an atrocious nonconference schedule. The Wildcats' only tough game came in Brooklyn, when they lost 69-68 to Maryland. And things don't get a whole lot tougher with games against Colorado State and Gardner-Webb before Big 12 play.
Washington State heads home to play Santa Clara next Saturday.
Kanas State plays the Rams next Saturday in Denver.