KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was only fitting that Barry Brown would surpass Jacob Pullen for the most steals in Kansas State history on the same night the Wildcats used their stingy defense to shut down Vanderbilt.
Brown finished with three steals to give him 211 for his career, and the senior guard added 12 points to join three other Wildcats in double-figures scoring, leading Kansas State to a wire-to-wire 69-58 victory over the high-scoring Commodores on Saturday night.
“I wanted to come here and leave a legacy somehow, some way, definitely with wins but then with individual accomplishments,” said Brown, who eclipsed by one the steals total Pullen piled up during his standout career from 2007-11. “This means a lot.”
Makol Mawien added 15 points, Kamau Stokes had 12 and Cartier Diarra 10 for the Wildcats (9-2), who forced 15 turnovers while holding the Commodores (7-3) to a lackluster 32-percent shooting from the field and 7 of 25 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“At shoot-around we were really, really good,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “You know, when the game started, we just did not play with the same intensity, the same energy, the same vigor.”
Kansas State struggled to adjust to life without injured star Dean Wade earlier in the week against Southern Miss. But the Wildcats looked much more comfortable without their top scorer against a tougher opponent from the SEC, improving to 8-1 in Wildcat Classic games in Kansas City.
“We talked about a special defensive effort, and frustrating them, and we did that,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “It was great lock-in defense by our guys.”
Matt Ryan hit four 3s and scored 14 points to lead the Commodores. Joe Toye had 11 points and Simisola Shittu added 10, though he was just 3 of 9 from the field.
“That was the best half-court defense we’ve faced this year,” Ryan said. “It was definitely a challenge for us. We’re used to getting into transition. We just played a more mature team. They knew what they were doing defensively.”
Vanderbilt rolled into the Sprint Center, where the Wildcats are accustomed to playing the Big 12 Tournament, averaging more than 83 points and fresh off an upset of No. 18 Arizona State.
Kansas State’s brutal defense and some inept offense put the Commodores in an early hole.
They came up empty on 11 of their first 13 possessions, and had as many turnovers as points (four) midway through the half. It wasn’t until Shittu’s basket with 6:01 left that Vanderbilt reached double-digits in scoring, and the Commodores still faced a 30-20 halftime deficit.
Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew didn’t come up with any solutions in the locker room, either. His team didn’t hit its first field goal of the second half until there was 9:41 to play.
By that point, Kansas State had extended its lead to 49-30.
Vanderbilt finally went on a run, scoring 11 straight to nip into its deficit. And after Mike McGuirl’s basket for Kansas State, the Commodores scored five more to get within 51-43 with 6:14 left.
It was at that point Diarra checked back into the game for the Wildcats, and the sophomore guard got them back on track. He sliced through the lane to pick up a foul and made both free throws, then he drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to restore a 58-45 cushion with four minutes left.
Kansas State buckled back down defensively to put the game away.
“We knew this was a hungry team, a very good defensive team, an NCAA Tournament team,” Drew said, “and they were very good tonight.”
STATS AND STREAKS
Kansas State improved to 7-4 against Vanderbilt. … The Commodores only managed three points off seven Wildcat turnovers. … Yanni Wetzell had eight points and nine boards for Vanderbilt. … Xavier Sneed had seven points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats. …
Vanderbilt had no problems scoring in its 81-65 victory over the Sun Devils earlier in the week. In fact, the only time the Commodores had failed to reach 75 points in a game this season was against North Carolina State, when their offense never got going in an 80-65 defeat.
Kansas State needed a 24-2 second-half run to beat Southern Miss, but the Wildcats showed they can still cause big trouble for the Big 12 even with Wade on the sideline. Remember, their top scorer also was sidelined by an injury when the Wildcats made their Elite Eight run last season.
Vanderbilt returns home against Tennessee State next Saturday.
Kansas State plays George Mason next Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.