In its first loss of the season, Kansas State made 36.7 percent of its shots from the field, 22.2 percent of its shots from three-point range and scored more than half of its points on fast break and second chance opportunities.
The Wildcats clearly struggled with Bruce Weber’s motion offense, and that’s the main reason they were unable to push No. 4 Michigan in the second half of a 71-57 defeat.
“We need to spend more time on offense, because a lot of us aren’t on the same page with knowing how to set screens and keep the offense moving,” starting forward Nino Williams said.
That showed when it took nearly 10 minutes for K-State to get its first points out of a half-court set. Seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez were quiet until the game got out of reach and guards Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez were the only two players that were consistently active.
But while they held the ball or sprinted around the perimeter to get open, K-State’s interior players seemed lost. They rarely caught the ball in good position to turn and shoot, and when they tried to pass back outside Michigan made them work.
The Wolverines didn’t allow the Wildcats to make many easy passes, and that was perhaps what hurt K-State the most. When forwards have to jump or lob passes to get the ball to guards on the perimeter, everything slows down.
The defense has time to reset, and the offense is right back where it started. K-State’s offense rarely had an advantage. The offense that looked sharp during a 5-0 start wasn’t ready for a top 5 opponent.
“They took away our killer move. Now you’ve got to have a counter move,” Weber said afterward. “We didn’t have that. You come here to win, and we competed for a half. That wasn’t enough. The key is where we go from here and how we get better in the next couple weeks.”
The good news for Weber is that K-State will get a full week of practice before returning to action on Dec. 2 against USC Upstate. He has time to improve the offense before upcoming games against Florida and Gonzaga.
Significant improvement needs to be made, but the Gators and Bulldogs won’t pose the same challenge Michigan did. The Wolverines are one of the nation’s best teams.
It also shouldn’t be hard for the Wildcats to shake off this loss. Though they were disappointed in the way they played, this wasn’t the first lopsided defeat they have endured over the years.
Frank Martin lost 17 games by double-digits during his five years as coach, including an eerily similar 82-64 loss to Duke in the CBE championship game, an 86-74 loss to Ole Miss in Puerto Rico and a 103-77 beatdown against Xavier.
All three of those teams rebounded to make the NCAA Tournament. The team that lost to Ole Miss advanced to the Elite Eight.
Bob Huggins also suffered rough losses early, falling to New Mexico 78-54 and California 78-48. His team rebounded to win 23 games and play in the NIT.
It is now up to Weber to produce the similar progress.
“We just hoped we would survive this one,” Weber said. “We have a lot of practice coming up and we have got to get better on the offensive end. We have some nice pieces. Now it’s time to get them working together.”