Early Deficit Buries K-State in 85-74 Loss to Kosovo

Highlights

COSTA MASNAGA, Italy
– The Kansas State men’s basketball team could not recover from a cold-shooting performance in the first quarter, as the Kosovo National Team posted an 85-74 win on Tuesday night at the Costa Masnaga Sport Complex.

K-State missed its first nine field goals, as Kosovo jumped out to an 11-0 lead en route to a 23-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Wildcats were able to claw their way back to within 77-67 with 3:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, but could get no closer in falling to 2-2 on their 10-day exhibition tour.

“Obviously we were disappointed with the start of the game,” said head coach Bruce Weber. “You can’t spot a veteran and skilled team with a double-digit lead and then be in scramble mode the rest of the way. We did make several runs to cut into the lead, but either we made a poor decision or they made a big play to keep us at bay. We did get a good effort from D.J, who gave us a double-double. Kam and Xavier made some shots that helped us stay in the game. Overall, we need to get better consistent play from all of our players so we can continue to make the progress as a team.”

After falling behind by 14 points in the opening quarter, K-State was able to win or tie the remaining three quarters by a composite score of 65-62. The Wildcats managed to tie the second (22-22) and fourth (21-21) quarters in between a 22-19 third quarter. The team combined to shoot 43.9 percent (25-of-57), including 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from 3-point range, in the last three quarters after starting the game 3-of-20 from the field. 

“The most important thing is what we will learn from this game,” said Weber. “Ball movement and decision-making were the difference in the game. Hopefully, we now understand that is what we need to execute when we return home for practice in October.” 

After falling behind by 14 points in the opening quarter, K-State was able to win or tie the remaining three quarters by a composite score of 65-62. The Wildcats managed to tie the second (22-22) and fourth (21-21) quarters in between a 22-19 third quarter. The team combined to shoot 43.9 percent (25-of-57), including 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from 3-point range, in the last three quarters after starting the game 3-of-20 from the field. 

Sophomore Kamau Stokes led a trio of Wildcats in double figures with a game-tying 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, while senior D.J. Johnson notched a double-double with a game-high 13 rebounds to go with 10 points on 4-of-5 field goals. Freshman Xavier Sneed registered double figures for the fourth straight game on the tour with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Sophomore Dean Wade grabbed 8 rebounds to go with his 5 points.

The Kosovo National Team, which consists of a number of European professional players, was led by Justin Doellman’s 20 points on 9-of-13 field goals. Drilon Hajrizi (18), Darden Berisha (14) and Yll Kacaniku (10) also scored in double figures, while Scott Bamforth dished out 11 assists. Doellman, who played at Xavier (2003-07), is a 9-year European professional currently playing for FC Barcelona Lassa (Spain), while Bamforth, who was a two-time First Team All-Big Sky performer at Weber State (2010-13), plays professional for Bilbao Basket (Spain).

For the contest, K-State connected on 36.4 percent (28-of-77) of its field goals, including 44.4 percent (8-of-18) from 3-point range, to go with 51 rebounds, 10 assists and 7 steals. Kosovo knocked down 46.3 percent (31-of-67) from the field, including 37.1 percent (13-of-35) from long range, with 41 rebounds, 24 assists and 8 steals.

Sneed (5) and Stokes (3) combined for nearly all of the Wildcats’ 9 points in the first quarter, as Sneed notched two of the team’s three field goals to go along with taking a charge. Johnson and redshirt freshman Isaiah Maurice grabbed 3 rebounds each in the opening quarter.

K-State slowly started to chip away at the deficit, opening the second quarter with a 5-0 run before closing to within 33-25 with 3:30 remaining before halftime. However, the experienced Kosovo team ended the rally with seven straight points to force Weber to use a timeout, down 40-25. The Wildcats scored 6 of the last 11 points to tie the quarter at 22-each, as senior Wesley Iwundu led seven different scorers with 5 points.

Down 45-31 at the half, K-State saw its deficit grow to 22 less than two minutes into the third quarter, as Kosovo opened the quarter with an 8-0 run. After the squads traded runs, the Wildcats were able to close to within 64-53 at the end of three quarters on the strength of a 10-0 run. Stokes (8) and Sneed (5) combined for 13 of the team’s 22 points. 

Kosovo again started a quarter with a run, opening up a 69-53 edge on a 5-0 spurt just moments into the fourth quarter. K-State again responded to the challenge by closing to within 10 points twice, including 73-63 with 5:30 to play on back-to-back 3-pointers by Stokes and 77-67 with 3:25 remaining. However, Kosovo quickly ended any remaining hopes of a comeback with an 8-0 run en route to an 85-74 victory. Stokes had 6 points in the fourth quarter.

The contest was the Wildcats’ fourth of five scheduled exhibitions on its 10-day tour of Italy and Switzerland. All the exhibition have utilized FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, which include four 10-minute quarters and a 24-second shot clock among several variations from the college game.

The travel party has enjoyed three action-packed days of sightseeing, beginning in Venice on Sunday before moving north to Verona and Lake Como on Monday and Tuesday. The team was able to experience a water taxi to Venice before touring St. Mark’s Square and Basilica and enjoying a gondola ride. The sights on Monday and Tuesday included a cable-car ride to top of the Alps overlooking Lake Como and a boat excursion to Bellagio and Como.

“We have been very fortunate to have an unbelievable experience touring Italy and now moving onto Switzerland for our last two days,” said Weber. “I believe it’s important for us to play good basketball on Thursday night (against BBC Lausanne) and leave Europe on a high note.”

K-State has concluded the Italian portion of its tour and will now move north into Switzerland, where the travel party will spend Wednesday and Thursday touring Montreux, which is close to Lake Geneva. The party will tour the famous Chateau de Chillon on Thursday, which is a Medieval fort set on the shores of Lake Geneva. The Wildcats will play the final game of its tour on Thursday night with a contest against BBC Lausanne at 8 p.m. local/1 p.m. CT in Lausanne.