The slump started in the second half against Texas, when the Wildcats failed to match the Longhorns’ aggression and scored just 24 points after taking a 40-27 lead. Then came an 18-point first half against Kansas in which it turned the ball over more times (eight) than it made field goals (seven). Combined with a better-but-still-disappointing 35-point effort in the second half last night, K-State has averaged 1.28 points per minute in its last 60 minutes.
That’s not enough for K-State to compete with the teams in the upper half of the Big 12.
Wildcats basketball coach Frank Martin realizes that as well as anyone, and is simply telling his players: “When you have an open shot, you need to make it.”
Despite an atrocious start, K-State made enough shots to get back into the game late. Jamar Samuels kept his team in the game by scoring 20 points. But when K-State really needed to find the bottom of the net, it misfired. Will Spradling, Jordan Henriquez and Angel Rodriguez all missed shots with Kansas leading 55-51 in the final minute. Overall, K-State made 20 of 65 shots from the field.
Of course, K-State might not have needed to make more shots had it committed fewer turnovers.
“Our turnovers is our weakest link,” Martin said. “That continues to be a problem. People are going to look at that and say, ‘They only turned it over 16 times, what’s he talking about?’ Well, eight of the 11 leads to breakaway dunks, that’s 16 points that you can’t defend. That’s the problem with our team. We make boneheaded plays and mistakes that lead to easy baskets.”
The Wildcats might also want to begin preparing for triangle-and-two defenses. Texas Tech confused them with that set last week and so did Kansas last night.
Still, it seems like K-State knows what it needs to work on heading into key road games at Baylor and Missouri. It is playing well enough defensively to win games. Now it needs an offense to go with it.
“The effort was great tonight,” Samuels said. “We just couldn’t come up with the win.”
Player of the game
Jeff Withey. The KU center went for 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks. Oh so close to a triple-double. He dominated this game inside, and is looking like one of the most improved players in the nation. It’s crazy to think at this time a year ago Jordan Henriquez thoroughly outplayed him in a head-to-head matchup. Frank Martin needs to sit Henriquez down and use Withey’s progress as motivation.
Play of the game
It was either Withey’s block of Rodney McGruder, which he turned into a fastbreak dunk, or the three Tyshawn Taylor made in the second half with K-State leading 37-36. Kansas inbounded the ball, Taylor fumbled it into the backcourt (not sure why that wasn’t a turnover) zoomed past Angel Rodriguez, who tried and failed to draw a charge, and sank a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock. It changed the game.
Martin didn’t approve of Rodriguez trying to draw a charge in that situation. There are times to try and do that. This was not that time.
“Angel tries to flop on a charge,” Martin said. “Tyshawn looks at him as he falls down and says, ‘Thanks for making my job easy,’ and sticks a three.”
In the first half, K-State made seven field goals while turning the ball over eight times.
“You’re seven for 31 with eight turnovers at halftime,” Martin said, “You’re lucky you’re in the game with anyone in the Big 12, let alone a top 5 team in the country.”
Do it again!
Jamar Samuels. The fifth-year senior looked like he was a sophomore again. He stepped outside and confidently made four three-pointers and he stepped inside and grabbed 12 rebounds. He did everything he could against the Jayhawks, and arguably played his finest game since erupting for 27 points against Oklahoma State in the 2010 Big 12 Tournament. Samuels is an athletically gifted player who can create mismatches by playing inside and out. He hasn’t done much of that lately (he was a non factor against Texas and Texas Tech) but he needs to continue doing it now.
How about a do-over?
Angel Rodriguez missed all eight of his shot attempts and turned the ball over seven times. The freshman guard has the offensive game and energy to impact games in a positive way, but he needs to learn to play within himself, take fewer risks and stop throwing the ball away before he can do so on a consistent basis.
Bramlage Coliseum provided a terrific home-court advantage last night. The crowd was loud and into the game. It was a great college basketball environment. That being said, the student section wasn’t totally full. A noticeable gap of seats behind the South basket went unused. That could lead to fewer student tickets next season. If the student body can’t fill its section for the Kansas game, that’s a good sign its ticket allotment is too high. It wasn’t totally full for last year’s KU game either. Though nothing is written in stone, I have talked to a handful of people at K-State who think the school will try to sell some of those tickets to the general public in future seasons.
A win over Kansas would have significantly boosted K-State’s NCAA Tournament resume, but the Wildcats still have plenty of time to win enough games to be a part of March Madness. The way I see it, they need three wins to lock up a bid. No Big 12 team that goes .500 in conference play will miss out, especially one that owns a win over Missouri. College basketball is down enough this year that two more wins might be enough, too. But that would be cutting things awfully close. K-State is currently projected as a No. 11 seed in most online bracket predictions.
Quote to note
“That’s not on the kids. That’s on us as coaches. We need to better prepare — us, the adults, the guys who make salaries — it’s up to us to prepare these guys better.” — Frank Martin, taking the blame for K-State’s loss to Kansas.