MANHATTAN — Bruce Weber's biggest takeaway from last Saturday's Kansas State overtime victory over UNLV in Las Vegas had less to do with the final score than with the Wildcats' growth as a team.
"I think they showed some courage and some toughness and some grit, because it seemed like it wasn't going to go right," Weber said Tuesday ahead of the Wildcats' 7 p.m. Wednesday home game against Monmouth at Bramlage Coliseum. "Every time we had open shots we'd have tip-ins, different plays, it just didn't seem like it was meant to be.
"But they kept grinding it out and made some huge plays. And it was a variety of guys at the end — a lot of the young guys. Obviously Montay's (Montavious Murphy) and-one, DaJuan's (Gordon) corner three, Mike's (McGuirl) corner three, just a lot of good plays. They responded to a tough situation."
While freshmen Murphy and Gordon made big shots against UNLV, it was senior forward Xavier Sneed and junior guard Cartier Diarra who again led the way in the 60-56 victory. Sneed scored four of the Wildcats' last six points in overtime to finish with a team-high 19, while Diarra followed his 23-point outing in the opener with 12 points.
"They're different roles," Weber said of Sneed and Diarra, who often deferred to seniors Barry Brown, Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes last year. "Both of those guys have made big shots throughout their careers in late-game situations.
"But it's their responsibility now and that's who everyone's looking for. They've got to make not only the big shot but the right pass maybe or a defensive switch or whatever it might be. I've said since the beginning we're a new team — we're young but we're also new."
For the second time in as many games, the Wildcats (2-0) came back from a halftime deficit, trailing the Runnin' Rebels 23-16 at the break. They were down one point in the season opener against North Dakota State.
The next test is a 1-1 Monmouth team that is playing its first five games on the road. The Mountain Hawks opened with a 66-62 victory at Lehigh but were blown out, 94-74, on Saturday at Hofstra.
"They have some experience back — a little bit like North Dakota State in that aspect," Weber said. "A little different style.
"A little more athletic, maybe, than North Dakota State. Obviously (head coach) King Rice was a great player — played in the (North) Carolina system."
The Hawks are led by junior guard Deion Hammond with 13.5 points per game, while 6-foot-8 senior forward Mustapha Traore averages 7.5 points and 6.0 rebounds. Diarra is averaging 17.5 points and Sneed 14 to lead K-State, while senior Makol Mawien adds 8.5 points and a team-best 6.5 rebounds.
MONMOUTH AT KANSAS STATE
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Bramlage Coliseum (12,528), Manhattan.
Records: Monmouth 1-1, Kansas State 2-0.
TV/Radio: ESPN+ (internet streaming)/KSAL-AM (1150).
Next: K-State vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan.