For 28 games this season, the Kansas State basketball team cruised to 24 wins and soared up the national rankings.
After a shocking 85-82 overtime loss to Iowa State on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum, combined with a 17-point loss at Kansas earlier in the week, the Wildcats are now headed in the other direction.
How far? Maybe just a spot or two in the polls. Maybe out of the top 10. It all depends on the voters.
What will that mean for K-State’s NCAA Tournament seeding? A No. 1 seed appears out of the question, but it all depends on how the Wildcats play at the Big 12 Tournament. Win a game or two in Kansas City, and they are likely looking at a No. 2 seed. Lose a third straight game and a No. 3 seed may be in the cards.
All that is certain is that K-State needs to perform better in the postseason than it did against the Cyclones if it wants to make a run through March.
Because on Saturday, they didn’t play well at all.
Jacob Pullen missed 14 shots, Denis Clemente misfired 13 times and Kansas State’s defense left a lot to be desired.
The Cyclones continually drove all the way to the basket, and scored 85 points despite missing more than a handful of point-blank shots.
Pullen described K-State’s defense like this: “When you give a team layups and open threes, I don’t know how you beat a team like that. We just had mental breakdowns.”
They were breakdowns Curtis Kelly thought were corrected.
“A lot of the things we build and instead of coming back in the next game and doing things differently, we end up doing them the same. That is the same thing that happened when we (lost to) Oklahoma State. Our defense usually keeps us in games and today we didn’t guard the right way.”
That allowed Iowa State to take a 42-33 lead into halftime, and K-State’s sputtering offense made it hard for the Wildcats to catch up. When they did, they pressed on offense and took questionable shots.
Pullen drove through traffic to the basket instead of waiting for open jumpers, Jamar Samuels hurried several shots and Clemente never found his groove.
Combined, it was too much for K-State to overcome.
Emptying the notebook:
– Pullen said K-State’s regular season can only be looked at as a success. Closing it out with two losses doesn’t change that.
“We were picked to finish this league sixth or whatever,” Pullen said. “We weren’t supposed to be top 25 all year. We’ve done a great job this season, and I don’t want anyone in our locker room to feel like we failed or collapsed. It was none of the above. We had two losses in a row for the first time all season. We’ve still accomplished a lot this season.”
– Iowa State has lost heartbreaker after heartbreaker this season. Overall, the Cyclones had lost 21 straight to ranked opponents before winning on Saturday.
Put pressure on them, and they normally fold. But against K-State they held on despite leading scorer Craig Brackins fouling out near the end of regulation. Five Iowa State players scored in double figures to overcome his absence.
That bothered Martin as much as anything else. “We just stood there and watched them,” he said. “Pretty poor defense.”
– Some will look at Pullen’s 27 points and Clemente’s 17 as good offensive games. But they needed 38 shots to get them.
Curtis Kelly was much more productive, scoring 19 points on seven shots.
– Pullen scored at least 10 points in every game this season.
– For their final games at Bramlage Coliseum, Clemente scored 17 points, Luis Colon scored two points and grabbed six rebounds and Chris Merriewether went scoreless. All three started.
– Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder combined for 11 minutes of action after playing extensively against Kansas.
– There were plenty of green shirts at Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday. For anyone wondering why, K-State students were celebrating Fake Patty’s Day, a Manhattan tradition.
– Iowa State outscored K-State 40-26 in the paint.
– After beating then No. 1 Texas at home, K-State owned an undefeated record at Bramlage Coliseum and the nickname “Octagon of Doom” spread across the country.
The Wildcats have gone 3-3 at home since, leading those on ESPN’s “College Gameday Final” to wonder just how hard it truly is to win in Manhattan.
Said Martin of those home struggles: “I don’t know what it is about playing at home. On the road they (shots) go in. At home they don’t. It’s unfortunate.”
– Speaking of “College Gameday Final,” Lunardi said he now projects K-State as the third No. 2 seed.
Player of the game: Diante Garrett. When K-State went zone and Craig Brackins fouled out, Garrett did serious damage with his driving ability. He ended the game with eight points and eight assists.
Play of the game: The Wildcats had the chance to win the game at the end of regulation, and never got a good look at the basket. Pullen shot, and badly missed, a lengthy three-pointer.
Do this again: For as badly as K-State shot from the field, it was money at the free-throw line. The Wildcats drained 33 of 42 from the charity stripe. Pullen went 14 of 15, Clemente went 5 of 6 and Kelly went 7 of 7.
Try to avoid: Pullen and Clemente can’t go 3 of 21 from three-point land again.
Bottom line: Every team is allowed one slip up, but before Saturday we all thought losing to Oklahoma State at home was K-State’s slip up. Losing to Iowa State at home on senior day was disappointing on every level.