MANHATTAN — Bruce Weber has spent the entire season trying to light a fire under Makol Mawien.
What the Kansas State Wildcats have gotten all too often from their senior post player has been fouls and turnovers, rather than the inside presence they hoped for.
But that seems finally to be changing for Mawien, who in the last five games not only has seemed re-energized, but also has seen a rise both in his minutes and production.
In the last five games, he has averaged 8.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He ranks third on the team in scoring with 7.3 points per game and has taken over the rebounding lead at 5.3.
"He's just playing hard and it's better," Weber said of Mawien, an athletic 6-foot-9, 228-pounder from West Valley City, Utah. "He's talking, he's happy."
That, Mawien said, and he's more locked in mentally.
"I just think I've been a little more successful with my preparation," he said. "It's hard to say, really. Better preparation on my part has been successful in (my) playing a little better.
"That being said, we've gotten a little better as a team, but we want to get to a better point where we win more games. But all we can do now is focus on the next one and that's how you're going to make that happen."
The Wildcats are coming off a challenging seven-game stretch in which they played five ranked opponents, going 2-5. They're 9-13 overall and 2-7 at the halfway point of the Big 12 season, but the schedule looks more favorable the rest of the way, starting Saturday at Iowa State (9-13, 2-7).
Weber said Mawien, who has started all 93 career games at K-State since transferring as a sophomore from New Mexico Junior College, may have felt the same pressure that has led to inconsistent play from fellow senior Xavier Sneed and junior Cartier Diarra, the Wildcats' leading scorers and most experienced players.
"I think all three, the older guys, high expectations, lots of pressure," Weber said. "It obviously didn't go perfect and (Mawien) had to fight through it.
"To Mak's credit and hopefully Xavier and even Carti, they can make some progress and have a great finish."
Mawien clearly has been more assertive in the last two or three weeks, yet he has stayed out of foul trouble. That has allowed him to log 20-plus minutes in each of the last five games.
Weber would like to see Mawien and freshman forward Montavious Murphy more involved in the offense, as they were with a combined 20 points in Monday's 73-67 loss to No. 1-ranked Baylor.
Mawien said he's trying not to force it.
"I think I'm effective in the low post and the mid area. I can shoot the ball a little bit," he said. "I’m not too focused on the offensive end right now.
"I understand I need to play a little better, be more aggressive. I can't worry too much about it. I've just got to keep doing what has helped me be more successful and let that take care of itself."
Mawien made 4 of 6 shots and both his free throws against Baylor, and his shooting range extends to the 3-point line. But he turned the ball over four times and averages 1.9 a game.
"The only thing with Mak is just the turnovers," Weber said. "Either shoot it or throw it out.
"Don't sit there. If he could do that, he's made some progress."