MANHATTAN — Something got into the Kansas State Wildcats at halftime.
Then again, by now that shouldn't come as a great surprise.
After trailing at the break for the third time in as many games, the Wildcats opened the second half with yet another surge, erasing a nine-point deficit to bury Monmouth 73-54 Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
"Obviously the second half was much better," K-State coach Bruce Weber said after watching the Wildcats open the period with a 23-4 run and limiting Monmouth to one field goal over the first 14 1/2 minutes. "We had talked about being ready (and) I asked them after, I said, 'You know if you're ready. I don't know.'
"I think we came with a good mindset, but it didn't go easy (in the first half)."
Perhaps not, but the second period was a drastically different story. The same Monmouth team that shot 54.6 percent on the way to a 29-20 halftime advantage missed its first 10 attempts in the second and 15 of the first 16.
By the time the Hawks got their second basket, a 3-pointer by Melik Martin with 5:30 left, the Wildcats already led 57-35 following a Makol Mawien dunk.
K-State, now 3-0, got 15 points and six rebounds from Xavier Sneed, 11 points and nine boards from Mawien and eight points each from Cartier Diarra, freshman Montavious Murphy and David Sloan. Diarra also had seven assists.
"Honestly I just think it's the speed of the game," Murphy said of the Wildcats' second-half success. "I feel like we come out and we just take things for granted, but we've got to come out in the second half and always play hard.
"So I think we should just come out and play harder in the first half and just lock in."
Easier said than done, apparently. Not only did Monmouth shoot a high percentage in the first half, but K-State hit a miserable 26.6 percent of its shots and missed all 10 3-point attempts.
The Wildcats now are 1 of 32 from 3-point range in the opening half of their first three games.
That was a stark contrast to the second period, when the Wildcats converted 64.3 percent of their shots, including 4 of 9 threes, and 13 of 16 free throws.
"I think it's just before at before the coaches come in, we talk and the guys on the bench see what the guys on the court (are) not doing and we just communicate and they just go out there and adjust," said Sloan, a junior college and Diarra's backup at point guard. "And then we come off the bench and just try to pick up where they left off."
Sneed buried the Wildcats' first 3-pointer 25 seconds into the second half, then hit Murphy with a long pass for a fast-break dunk. Four Mawien free throws tied it at 29, and after Mustapha Truare hit the first of two free throws to give Monmouth the lead back Murphy's 3-pointer put K-State in front for good, 32-30, with 16:15 left.
And it didn't stop there. The Wildcats added baskets by Diarra and Sneed and a pair of Diarra free throws that pushed it to 38-31 before Gob Gabriel's rebound basket finally broke the Hawks' field goal drought at the 13:34 mark.
"They're big, strong guys. I can't say that enough," Monmouth coach King Rice said of K-State. "(Defensively) they're fundamentally sound.
"I thought their guys looked more tired, but they're a high major club and then Bruce subbed some, then their subs got going a little bit and the main guys got going again."
For Monmouth, reserve guard Ray Salnave was the lone double-figure scorer with 20 points, while Deion Hammond added nine. Traore grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
"The second half, much better flow," Weber said of his team. "You have 14 assists second half — some of that you're making shots, but some of it you're moving the ball — and we stepped up and made some shots.
"The defense the first half was pretty good."
K-State is off until Tuesday, when Arkansas-Pine Bluff visits Bramlage for a 7 p.m. game.