K-State's Bruce Weber: 'We got guys that care about defense'

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber talks about the Wildcats' defense in a 66-64 overtime win against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday at the Sprint Center.
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Kansas State coach Bruce Weber talks about the Wildcats' defense in a 66-64 overtime win against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday at the Sprint Center.
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Kansas State University

Kansas State is undefeated when this player scores at least 10 points

By Kellis Robinett

krobinett@wichitaeagle.com

March 08, 2018 04:24 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo.

Makol Mawien deserves a nickname. Here’s a suggestion: The Barometer.

He’s not the best basketball talent on Kansas State’s roster. Nor is he a finished product. Like most other complementary players in college basketball, the sophomore forward is inconsistent and still learning his role. But when he plays well, good things happen and the Wildcats win.

You can take that to the bank.

Mawien has scored 10 or more points in eight different games this season, and K-State has won all of them. He was at his best during a 66-64 overtime victory against TCU on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, scoring a team-high 16 points and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds. Add on three blocks and a steal, and it’s easy to see why the Wildcats are undefeated when Mawien is in top form.

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“That’s tough in anyone’s book, in any league,” K-State guard Barry Brown said. “He was tough today and we need him throughout the rest of the season, throughout March.”

It’s been an up-and-down season for Mawien since joining the Wildcats as a junior-college transfer, but he is trending in the right direction. He also had 14 points in the regular-season finale against Baylor.

He remains foul prone and limited in some offensive areas, but his defense is rock solid and his confidence is growing when he has the ball in his hands.

“We even put a couple plays in for him today,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “That’s never happened.”

It was encouraging to see Mawien take advantage by making 6 of 7 shots in 30 minutes of action.

“I’m not sure what has gotten into him, but I hope he gets a little more of it and keeps playing this way,” K-State forward Dean Wade said. “He is really energetic, setting good screens, rebounding and blocking shots. He is such a good player when he has that energy. He has got it right now. Hopefully he can keep it rolling for a few more weeks.”

Kansas State's Dean Wade talks about the Wildcats' 66-64 overtime win against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday at the Sprint Center.

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This is the player K-State coaches envisioned when they recruited him last spring. And he is arriving at an ideal time.

It took him longer to become a regular contributor than some hoped, but Weber admits that was to be expected. Why? Mawien was a stretch four in high school and junior college. K-State needed him to play the five.

An adjustment period followed.

“He came here and really wanted to play on the perimeter,” Weber said. “He wanted to play the four. We said, ‘Hey, do you want to play or do you want to back up Dean? You have got to make that decision.’ I think he figured it out.

“He has kind of learned where he can score. He has been great defensively. The other part is rebounding. He had nine today and went out and got a couple big ones.”

Best of all: Mawien stepped up when Brown and Wade, K-State’s usual stars, had off nights.

The Wildcats are 14-10 when Mawien doesn’t reach double figures, so it’s not like they will start feeding him the ball on every possession. But their odds of victory increase when he plays well.

That much has never been more obvious.

“We all know the stat,” Brown said. “I am telling him now to keep it up, because we need it. We want him to score in double figures every game.”

Game winner, at last

Barry Brown got the ball on K-State’s final possession of regulation and missed a long jumper that could have iced the game. It turned out to be a costly mistake when TCU grabbed the rebound on one end and forced overtime with a last-second three-pointer.

Brown, a junior guard, would have taken victory in any form, but he secretly wanted a shot at redemption.

It came on K-State’s final possession of overtime, and he responded by sinking a floater over three defenders with 11.2 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 66-64 lead.

In hindsight, he wished he had attacked the rim in regulation instead of settling for a jump shot. He learned from that experience and made the play of the game.

“I got down hill, jumped up and shot a floater high over a bunch of guys,” Brown said. “I just squared my shoulders and made a play. I practice that all the time. I wanted to make a play for my team. We worked hard to get to this point. I didn’t want to see us lose this one.”

Brown also missed a potential game-winner earlier this season against Kansas. Weber thinks he has matured since then.

“He finally got a game-winner,” Weber said. “We’re all happy for him.”

Kansas State freshman Cartier Diarra spoke after the Wildcats defeated TCU in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

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No field goals for you

This was one of K-State’s finest defensive efforts of the season.

TCU is one of the most efficient scoring teams in the country, but the Wildcats held the Horned Frogs to 64 points in a game that went to overtime.

They really turned up the pressure late after TCU pulled ahead 53-47 with 7:42 left on the clock. From there, K-State limited TCU to two field goals for the remainder of the game — a jumper by Alex Robinson at the 1:32 mark and Desmond Bane’s buzzer-beater.

TCU scored exclusively on free throws in overtime, meaning the Horned Frogs needed nearly 13 minutes to make their final two baskets.

Seven different K-State players came away with steals. Credit them cranking up their intensity with the game on the line.