CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three Wildcats scored in double-figures, including a career-high 17 points from freshman Mike McGuirl, as the Wildcats topped Creighton, 69-59, in the first round of the NCAA South Regional at the Spectrum Center on Friday.
The victory advances K-State into the second round of the NCAA Tournament against the winner of the No. 1 seed Virginia (31-2) or No. 16 seed UMBC (24-10) on Sunday. K-State is now 35-33 all-time in NCAA tournament play, including an 11-5 mark in the first round.
McGuirl was joined in double-figures by junior guards Barry Brown Jr., and Kamau Stokes who added 18 and 11 points, respectively. Sophomore forward Xavier Sneed added valuable minutes, including 9 points, while Brown added a team-high 6 rebounds and redshirt freshman guard Cartier Diarra led the team with 3 assists.
K-State (23-11) played without All-Big 12 First Team selection Dean Wade, who was held out for the second consecutive game as a precaution due to foot soreness. With Wade out, the Wildcats used a four-guard lineup featuring guards Brown, Diarra, Sneed and Stokes and forward Makol Mawien. K-State’s guards filled Wade’s void nicely, combining to score 53 of 69 points for the Wildcats. I
As a team, the Wildcats shot 46 percent (23-of-50) from the field and 47.3 percent (9-of-19) from beyond the arc in the game. K-State turned the ball over 11 times in the game, marking the 25th time this season the Wildcats committed 12 or fewer turnovers.
Creighton (21-12) was led by freshman guard Mitch Ballock who scored 16 points on 5-of-14 from the field and 4-of-11 from beyond the arc in the game. The Bluejays shot collectively 33.8 percent (23-of-68) from the field and 26.4 percent (9-of-34) from beyond the arc. K-State forced Creighton into 13 turnovers in the game and outscored the Bluejays’ bench, 19-7.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After taking the opening tip, the Wildcats searched for an open shot from beyond the arc on their first two possessions, before Stokes stepped within the arc to get the scoring started with a jump from the top of the key. After scoring K-State’s opening basket, Stokes would continue to score for the Wildcats, tallying the first seven points to get K-State out to a 7-0 lead.
Defensively, the Wildcats caused havoc for the Bluejays early on, as Creighton scored on only 1-of-8 of their shots in the first five minutes of play. The defensive pressure caused issues for the Bluejays around the rim, as Mawien and Sneed accounted for two early blocks in the opening minutes.
After missing their first two 3-pointers to start the contest, the Wildcats shot 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, including a 3-pointer from Brown to bring the score to 15-7 with 13:30 remaining in the half.
The defensive pressure continued for K-State throughout the first half, including a span in which the Bluejays were held in check for 3:57 while shooting 0-for-6 from the field, as K-State possessed a 20-12 lead with 7:23 remaining.
After ending the scoring drought, the Bluejays drew to within four, as senior forward Toby Hegner found space under the rim for a layup to bring the score to 20-16. Hegner had 7 points for Creighton in the first half.
On the following K-State possession, Diarra connected on a contested 3-pointer late in the shot clock. While getting back on defense, the Wildcats came up with a blocked shot from Diarra and then pushed the ball into their transition offense, where Stokes found Sneed on a lob for an alley-oop to extend the lead to 25-16 with 4:48 remaining.
With under 10 seconds remaining in the first half, Creighton’s Mitch Ballock hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining. On the K-State possession, Stokes drove the lane before dishing it to McGuirl who hit a deep 3-pointer as the buzzer went off to bring the score to 32-26, K-State.
In the first half, K-State shot 44.4 percent (12-of-27) from the field and 45.4 percent (5-of-11) from 3-point land in the first half. The guard tandem of Stokes and Diarra led the Wildcats with 7 points at the half, while Diarra also led in assists (4) and rebounds (3).
For the Bluejays, the team shot 34.3 percent (11-of-32) and 25 percent (4-of-16) from beyond the arc. Mintz led the Bluejays with 8 points in the first half. K-State recorded 3 blocks on Creighton shots in the half.
After shooting 5-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Wildcats went back to it in the second. Mawien found Sneed open from deep, to get K-State started with a 35-28 lead in the second half.
However, Creighton would spout off a 7-0 run after a layup from Brown, as the Bluejays narrowed the score to 37-35 with 16:06 remaining in the game.
In the second half, the guard tandem of Brown, Stokes and McGuirl took over for the Wildcats, as Brown scored five-straight points for the Wildcats, including a contested mid-range jumper to put him in double-figures at 11 points, as K-State led 46-39 with 10:47 remaining.
With 7:13 remaining and leading by seven, McGuirl spotted up from the corner, where he connected on a 3-pointer and drew a foul from Creighton’s Marcus Foster. McGuirl went to the line where he connected on the free-throw to convert the four-point play and bring the score to 57-46.
Over the last seven minutes, the Wildcats would maintain their lead behind efficient play on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats grabbed a game-high 16-point lead with 2:25 remaining in the game to help secure their first-round win.
The Wildcats closed out the game by shooting 46 percent (23-of-50) from the field and 47.3 percent (9-of-19) from beyond the arc in the game. The Bluejays shot 34.3 percent (11-of-32) and 25 percent (4-of-16) from beyond the arc. Creighton guardDavion Mintz, playing in front of his hometown crowd, led the Bluejays with 8 points in the first half. K-State recorded 3 blocks on Creighton shots in the half.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Mike McGuirl – Freshman guard Mike McGuirl scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, to lead him to a career-high in scoring. McGuirl set the tone for the Wildcats, including a buzzer-beater to end the first half to give K-State a 32-26 lead at the break. McGuirl added a tie for a career-high in rebounds (4) and 1 assist to his stat-line.
STAT OF THE GAME
33.8 – The Wildcats held Creighton to 33.8 percent (23-of-68) from the field in the game, marking the 29th time this season K-State has held the opponent to shoot under 50 percent. The Wildcats are 23-6 when holding the opponent to shoot 50 percent or less, and 5-0 this season when holding the opponent 59 points or fewer.