Junior Cartier Diarra scored a career-high 23 points, including 15 in the second half, as the Wildcats used a second-half resurgence to defeat Summit League favorite North Dakota State, 67-54, in the season opener for both squads on Tuesday night before 8,145 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.
Down by as many as five points in the first half, including by one at the half, the Wildcats (1-0) looked like a completely different team in the second half, more than doubling their first-half production (21) with a 46-point second half that came on 51.6 percent (16-of-31) shooting, including 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from 3-point range.
Diarra, who posted his first career 20-point game, also tied a career-high with 6 assists (to just 1 turnover) to go with 6 rebounds in 31 minutes. Senior Makol Mawien collected his third career double-double (including in back-to-back games) with 15 points on 6-of-12 field goals and a game-high 10 rebounds, while fellow senior Xavier Sneed and junior Levi Stockard III scored 9 and 8 points, respectively.
North Dakota State, which returned 10 lettermen and 5 starters from a team that won the Summit League Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago, was held to just 54 points on 28.8 percent (15-of-52) shooting, including 26.7 percent (8-of-30) from 3-point range. K-State has now held 88 opponents to 60 points or less in the Bruce Weber era, including 19 of their last 32 opponents dating back to last season.
Senior Rocky Kreuser led the Bison (0-1) with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
With the win, K-State moves to 26-2 (.929) all-time in season openers at Bramlage Coliseum, including to 7-1 (.875) record under head coach Bruce Weber. The Wildcats have now won 30 consecutive non-conference home games.
K-State stood a challenge from the veteran Bison early, trailing for nearly 11 minutes in the first half while shooting just 33.3 percent (10-of-30), including 8.3 percent (1-of-12) from 3-point range. Diarra, who scored the last two field goals of the first half, picked up right from there to start the second half, scoring 7 of the team’s first 9 points that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.
NDSU closed to within striking distance on several occasions, including 54-48 with 7:06 remaining, before Mawien ignited a 10-2 run with a traditional 3-point play that gave K-State a 64-50 lead with 3:47 to go.
For the game, the Wildcats connected on 42.6 percent (26-of-61), including 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from 3-point range, and hit on 64.3 percent (9-of-14) from the free throw line.