NEW YORK — Kansas State stumbled at the start of each half, and that made it even more difficult to play with No. 4 Michigan
Kansas State fought back in the first half after a scoreless streak to start the game. But the Wildcats began the second half with another one and never got within shouting distance of the Wolverines again in a 71-57 loss in the final of NIT Season Tipoff on Friday night.
“They are the best in transition,” Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said. “We spotted them six to start and spotted them eight or so the second half and that’s the game and you’re just playing catch-up.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 23 points for the Wolverines before he left after he was kneed in the head late in the game. Glenn Robinson III had 12 rebounds, and Trey Burke and Jon Horford had 10 points apiece.
Rodney McGruder had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Angel Rodriguez scored 10 for Kansas State (5-1).
“It was different from everyone we faced so far. They switched a lot of screens, and we really haven’t dealt with that thus far,” McGruder said. “But we missed a lot of shots we could have made.”
The Wildcats made 36.7 percent of their shots from the floor, including less than 29 percent in the first half. And they were outrebounded, too.
“Rebounding has been our strength, and they ended up punking us on the boards 42-30,” Weber said. “That’s supposed to be our strength, and they made it their strength this game.”
In its semifinal, Kansas State overcame a pesky Delaware team that should contend in the Colonial Athletic Association — a mid-major league that had Final Four teams in 2006 and 2011.
But Michigan was several notches above the Blue Hens and the Wildcats didn’t have much of an answer. They got off to a slow start in each half, and spent most of their effort trying to chip away at Michigan’s lead.