Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 67-64 loss at Texas on Tuesday at the Erwin Center:
1. The Big 12 is loaded.
Everyone knows six Big 12 teams are currently ranked. That’s impressive. But here’s the scary thing: Texas should be in the top 25, too. The Longhorns have size and depth, and they are well-coached. With Javan Felix starting to make shots, they are capable of beating most teams, especially at home. This was the team that was supposed to cost Rick Barnes his job, but it now appears destined for the NCAA Tournament. With back-to-back wins over Iowa State and Kansas State, trips to Austin are starting to look as treacherous as trips to Ames, Norman and Waco. A year ago, Weber said winning at Texas was a sign that K-State was good enough to win the conference. This time around, a loss in Austin shows just how tough the conference is. There are very few easy games in this league. Outside of TCU, and possibly West Virginia, they are all a challenge.
2. Texas provided a good blueprint for neutralizing Kansas State’s defense.
K-State sports the Big 12’s best defense, but the Wildcats are at their best against small lineups in the half court. On Tuesday, Texas designed a strategy to get around that by running and trying for as many transition points as possible. When that didn’t work, and it was forced to run sets, it dumped the ball into Cameron Ridley (the tallest person on the floor) or let Felix create off the dribble. It will be interesting to see if future opponents attempt to copy that gameplan.
3. When Marcus Foster struggles, so does Kansas State.
Foster isn’t the most efficient scorer to begin with, so when he struggles the way he did against Texas (scoring eight points on 3 of 12 shooting) the Wildcats also struggle. This was one of Foster’s worst games. He turned it over three times and missed five three-pointers. Weber only put him on the court for 27 minutes. Gipson did everything he could to keep K-State in the game, scoring 24 points. But he can’t do it alone. He needs scoring help. No one else stepped up. Shane Southwell contributed the most, scoring 13 points. Wesley Iwundu, Jevon Thomas and Nino Williams combining for nine points hurt K-State.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Thomas Gipson — 8.
Last game: 9. Average: 7.6.
It’s hard to beat 24 points in 31 minutes, especially considering the workload Gipson faced against the Longhorns’ big frontcourt. But making 10 of 18 shots and losing four turnovers hurt his rating.
Will Spradling — 7.5.
Last game: 6. Average: 6.
This was one of Spradling’s best games. Maybe he should go sleeveless all the time. The senior guard had eight points, four rebounds and four assists. He had numerous great entry passes.
Shane Southwell — 6.5.
Last game: 9.5. Average: 6.9.
He was one of the few K-State players who looked aggressive on offense. Still, he had too many missed opportunities.
Marcus Foster — 5.5.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 6.8.
K-State’s leading scorer wasn’t much of a factor in this game. He did pass the ball well, though.
Wesley Iwundu — 5.
Last game: 6. Average: 5.2
The freshman forward had five points and five rebounds, which was adequate. But his defense left a lot to be desired.
Jevon Thomas — 4.
Last game: 8.5. Average: 6.
The freshman point guard only made one of six shots and he failed to bother Felix on defense.
D.J. Johnson — 4.
Last game: 0. Average: 2.6.
Points from Johnson are always a bonus, and he scored four in nine minutes.
Nino Williams –3.
Last game: 6. Average: 5.7.
He claims to be a more consistent player this year, but a scoreless effort at Texas suggests otherwise.
Omari Lawrence — 2.
Last game: 3. Average: 3.3.
He grabbed two rebounds in four minutes.
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