K-State Bounces Back for 97-80 Win on Exhibition Tour

ROME, Italy – The Kansas State men’s basketball won the first game of its exhibition tour on Thursday night, as sophomores Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes combined for 33 points in a 97-80 victory over BC Silute at the Stella Azzurra Sports Complex.  

Brown and Stokes paced five Wildcats in double figures with 17 and 16 points, respectively, on a combined 14-of-23 field goals. Brown went 7-of-11 from the field, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, to go with 3 rebounds and 3 steals, while Stokes knocked down 7-of-12 field goals, along with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. It was marked improvement for the duo, who combined for just 12 points in Wednesday night’s 82-75 loss to LCC International University on 5-of-22 shooting. 

“I’m pleased that we came out from the start of the game and competed with good energy,” said head coach Bruce Weber. “We were much more active on defense tonight with 15 steals and eight blocks. I challenged Wes (Iwundu) and Barry (Brown) to focus on playing hard -- and let the scoring come -- and they responded by leading us on the Play Hard Chart. The biggest negative was our turnovers, which prevented us from stretching out the lead earlier in the game.”

Senior Carlbe Ervin II enjoyed another solid outing, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 field goals to go with a team-high 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 rebounds, while redshirt freshman Isaiah Maurice and freshman Xavier Sneed each chipped in 10 points. Senior Wesley Iwundu totaled team-highs in rebounds (7), steals (4) and blocks (3), along with 8 points.

“The first game we had just stepped off the plane we were out of our routine and we weren’t use to the conditions,” said Ervin. “The second game we said that we weren’t going to lose and we went out and played as a team. We got to the rim and picked up our defense tonight.”

Ervin, who has gotten high marks from the coaching staff for his improvements this summer, has combined for 20 points in the first two exhibition games to go with 10 assists and 5 steals. Sneed, who netted 11 points in Wednesday’s first game, is the only Wildcat to score in double figures in the first two exhibitions.

“It feels like I have been playing with these guys forever,” said Sneed on his effort so far. “We are starting to gel as a team and I’m starting to understand how we play and what my role can be.” 

A full night’s rest benefitted the entire Wildcat team, which connected on 59.4 percent (38-of-64) of its field goals against BC Silute. All 15 players who made the trip appeared in the game with 11 netting at least one field goal. The team was sluggish in its first exhibition loss, shooting just 37.2 percent from the field, including 24.2 percent from 3-point range, after their tour was delayed by a day due to flight complications.

K-State won all four quarters of the contest, beginning with the first where the Wildcats knocked down 8-of-10 field goals on six assists en route to a 22-15 advantage. In all, eight different players scored in the first quarter led by 4 points each from Iwundu and Sneed. The lead was pushed to 46-36 at the halftime break, as Brown (9) and Stokes (7) combined for 16 of the team’s 24 second-quarter points on 7-of-10 shooting.    

The Wildcats’ lead ballooned to 16 points (71-55) after the third quarter, as eight different Wildcats contributed to the scoring led by Maurice (6 points) and freshman Brian Patrick (5 points). This balanced attack continued in a tight fourth quarter (26-25), as nine of the 13 players who played scored paced by Stokes’ 5 points.

“We need to continue to improve with pushing the ball in transition while also taking care of the ball,” said Weber. “We have to make the simple plays -- make the easy passes -- that will put pressure on our opponents’ defense. We also have to continue to get experience with our younger players – both Brian (Patrick) and Isaiah (Maurice) had positive showings tonight. Developing toughness and dealing with physicality also has to be an important focus throughout the next eight days. We are looking forward to a busy travel day tomorrow to the Tuscany region and the beautiful city of Florence.”

The contest was the Wildcats’ second of five scheduled exhibitions on its 10-day tour of Italy and Switzerland. The travel party was able to experience a full day of sightseeing on Thursday, including a three-hour tour of the Vatican City and stops at the surrounding sights of the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navonna and the Pantheon. 

All five exhibitions will utilize FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, which include four 10-minute quarters and a 24-second shot clock among several variations from the college game.
K-State leaves Rome on Friday morning and starts its journey to Florence with a sightseeing stop in Siena. The Wildcats return to the basketball court on Saturday evening with a contest against the Italian Select team at 8:30 p.m. local time/1:30 p.m. CT in Livorno, Italy.