ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — Kansas State coach Bruce Weber didn’t panic when his 12th-ranked Wildcats struggled to score Sunday against Penn.
Instead, Weber counted on Kansas State’s defense to settle things down in the Wildcats’ 64-48 victory over the Quakers in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam tournament.
Dean Wade scored 17 points to lead three players in double figures for Kansas State (4-0), which advanced to Monday night’s championship game against Missouri at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports and Fitness Center.
“Our defense has been our strength,” said Weber, whose Wildcats forced Penn into 19 turnovers, leading to 24 points. “It was last year, and so far we’ve been pretty good.
“Our guys were trying to make plays, and we’ve gotta let the team make the plays. We’ve got good balance, and we just need to let things come to us.”
Kamau Stokes added 16 points and Xavier Sneed had 11 for the Wildcats, who advanced to their fourth in-season tournament final under Weber.
“It’d be nice to finally get one,” Wade said. “We got a little antsy on offense at the beginning. We had some interesting shot selection, but once we got settled down, things started flowing. We started getting buckets.”
Devon Goodman scored 18 points and Michael Wang added 14 for the Quakers (4-1), who led by as many as eight points in the first half.
As Kansas State struggled, missing 18 of its first 22 shots, Penn was able to pull ahead 19-11 on Wang’s layup with 7:16 remaining in the first half.
But the Wildcats scored 17 of the next 19 points to lead 28-21 at the half. Austin Trice’s tipin with 2:46 left made it 21-all, and Wade’s 3-point play at 1:35 put Kansas State ahead 24-21.
“We’re a very good defensive team, and I thought we guarded them the whole night,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “But they’re big and strong, and they wore us down. They’re a very good basketball team. They wore us down, and we didn’t make shots we typically make.”