Kansas State’s second basketball game of the season, against UNLV at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, will be unique.
This is the earliest K-State has played a true road game during Bruce Weber’s time as coach.
“I thought we needed to play a road game,” Weber said. “If you are going to win on the road in the (Big 12) you have to have a road game (in the nonconference). It just so happens our Big 12/Big East Challenge game was going to be at home and it worked out this way.”
Weber isn’t sure if he made a wise decision scheduling a road test against UNLV less than one week into the season, considering three K-State freshmen and one junior-college transfer are still adjusting.
But he has fond memories of the time he took a team that featured Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade as freshmen on the road against Georgia in 2015. Back then, Wade hit a game-winning shot. That trip turned out to be a good experience. Weber is hoping for another one on Saturday.
“That game was very early and we found a way to win,” Weber said. “I think it is a good teaching lesson ... It’s all about learning and growing as a team. That is what we really have to focus on.”
When/where: 3 p.m. Saturday at Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
TV/radio: Streaming on ESPN+ (subscription required); KKLE (1550 AM) in Wichita, KMBZ (980 AM) in Kansas City.
|Cheikh Mbacke Diong||6-11||Jr.||17.0|
About Kansas State (1-0): The Wildcats opened the season with a sluggish 67-54 home victory over North Dakota State in which they trailed at halftime. Cartier Diarra sparked K-State with an energetic second half on his way to a game-high 23 points. It was one of his best efforts in a K-State uniform, aside from taking 21 shots. Freshman forward Montavious Murphy was a nice surprise in his first game, as he led the Wildcats in minutes played. Weber will look for more from Mike McGuirl and Xavier Sneed against UNLV after they combined for 12 points last time out.
About UNLV (1-0): The Rebels got off to an impressive start to the T.J. Otzelberger era by defeating Purdue Fort Wayne 86-71 in their first game. All five UNLV starters scored in double figures, with Cheikh Mbacke Diong and Jonah Antonio leading the way with 17 points. The Rebels have a talented starting five, but lack depth. They only used eight players in the opener. Otzelberger came to UNLV from South Dakota State, where he posted a 70-33 record over three seasons. He has experience in the Big 12, going back to when he served as an assistant at Iowa State.
Prediction: Bruce Weber’s team shouldn’t be fazed by its first road environment of the season with veterans like Makol Mawien, Sneed and Diarra in the starting lineup. But UNLV presents some new challenges for the Wildcats, such as a 6-foot-11 forward with scoring touch. Otzelberger is also a quality coach. Still, the Wildcats should have the edge in this game. They have more depth and proven players than the Rebels. K-State 68, UNLV 62