Kansas State passed its first true test of the basketball season Friday at Bramlage Coliseum.
A 93-72 victory over South Dakota is unlikely to impress anyone on the outside looking in, but this wasn’t the mismatch many foresaw. The Coyotes played inspired early and the Wildcats had to fight to improve their record to 3-0.
“It’s a good learning lesson for the guys,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “That’s what I talked about after. Every game is different. You have got to adjust, you have got to be ready to play. Just look at all the upsets around the country. ... It’s college basketball. You have got to come ready to play.”
South Dakota had that mentality early and led by as many as eight in the first half before taking a 42-39 lead into the locker room. Behind 20 points from Shy McClelland, a junior guard that made contested layups over the outstretched arms of K-State defenders and looked like the best player on the court, the Coyotes mounted an upset bid.
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“He kicked our butt,” Weber said.
The Coyotes threatened to ruin the good vibes K-State created in its first two games, a pair of double-digit victories, but the Wildcats were much too strong in the second half and pulled away.
Justin Edwards was the focal point of the turnaround. The senior guard threw down a transition dunk early in the second half and gave K-State its first lead since the opening moments with 15 minutes, 36 seconds remaining by scoring four straight points. He finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, his third-straight quality effort.
“In the locker room coach was just on me,” Edwards said. “He told me I needed to pick it up. On defense, I was in Columbia mindset, sitting in the lane trying to not get back-doored. He told me to change my mindset and be more aggressive and do our principles that we normally do. That just ignited the flame.”
Barry Brown came off the bench to score 18 points, with the majority of his baskets coming in the second half when K-State was at its best. Freshman forward Dean Wade and Stephen Hurt both had 15 points. Overall, nine Wildcats scored, upping their scoring average to 84.6 points, and increase of 20.8 from last season.
“I just saw my team in a drought,” Brown said. “Coming off the bench I feel like I have to have that energy to pick them back up. I hit some big shots and got some momentum going.”
The Coyotes, 1-3, couldn’t compete with K-State’s depth, especially with McClelland missing much of the second half with cramp issues.
K-State will try to continue its strong form when it heads to the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Sprint Center. The Wildcats take on Missouri on Monday, followed by either Northwestern or No. 1 North Carolina on Tuesday.
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett