Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 66-58 victory over Texas Tech on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum:
1. This might be the worst K-State can play while winning a conference game.
Marcus Foster scored two points. Shane Southwell made one shot. Thomas Gipson was on the floor for 11 minutes. Everything about those statistics screams loss, but the Wildcats found a way to beat Texas Tech without significant contributions from their main three scorers. Will Spradling, Wesley Iwundu and a surprisingly strong bench effort saved the day for K-State. In some ways that is a good sign. The Wildcats have enough depth to win when their starters aren’t at their best. It is also a negative sign. How many other teams are getting this little from their best players in late January? Gipson has posted back-to-back poor games. Southwell hasn’t done anything special since the West Virginia game. And Foster has been all over the map lately. K-State needs consistency from all three moving forward. It had enough depth to hold off Texas Tech at home, but it will need more than that to win more difficult games.
2. Will Spradling may never wear a T-shirt again.
The senior guard has played his best basketball since switching to a sleeveless undershirt before the Texas game. He averaged 6.9 points in his first 18 games. He is averaging 12.3 points in his past three games (all sleeveless), and he looked great scoring 17 points against Texas Tech. He made two three-pointers and hit a driving reverse layup with the game in doubt in the second half. He is playing with more confidence and he is giving K-State a much-needed lift on offense. His shooting motion looks smoother, and teammates are showing a greater desire to screen for him and get him open. Spradling’s improvements have little or nothing to do with switching undershirts, but he isn’t taking any chances. He says he is sticking with his current look the rest of the season.
3. Bruce Weber has learned to trust D.J. Johnson.
Johnson has been an afterthought since Big 12 play begin. K-State coaches have only turned to him when Thomas Gipson has been in foul trouble or has needed a rest. Before Tuesday, he had only played double-digit minutes once (14 minutes against Oklahoma). But he was on the court for 25 minutes against Texas Tech. And he played reasonably well, scoring four points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots. That is a drastic improvement from a few weeks ago, when he fouled out in five minutes against West Virginia without recording a positive stat. K-State coaches don’t want to use him more than 10 minutes a game, but if he can continue playing the way he did against Texas Tech they can have more freedom with how they use Gipson.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Will Spradling — 9.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 6.6.
It took a while, but Spradling is finally turning into the player K-State needs him to be. He is playing with confidence, making shots and looking like a leader.
Wesley Iwundu — 7.5.
Last game: 7. Average: 5.8
Iwundu is becoming one of the most consistent players on K-State’s roster. You always know what you are going to get out of him. On Tuesday, he had 11 points, four rebounds and no major mistakes.
Nino Williams –7.
Last game: 4. Average: 5.7.
Bruce Weber thinks Williams should be “in the conversation” for Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. That’s a stretch, but we can forgive Weber for the hyperbole. Williams played well against Texas Tech, scoring 13 points off the bench.
D.J. Johnson — 6.5.
Last game: 5.5. Average: 3.4.
Johnson has come a long way since the bagel he posted against West Virginia. He was a big reason why K-State won this game.
Omari Lawrence — 6.
Last game: 4. Average: 3.8.
The reserve guard made both his shots, including a three-pointer. He played a key role in the victory.
Thomas Gipson — 5.
Last game: 5. Average: 7.
There is something to be said for scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds in 11 minutes, but that just shows how much K-State coaches hate putting Gipson on the bench. Had he avoided foul trouble and played 30 minutes, he could have had a monster game.
Jevon Thomas — 4.
Last game: 6. Average: 5.8.
Thomas needs to slow down, especially when he has the ball around the basket. He is too talented to miss some of the easy shots he takes.
Marcus Foster — 3.
Last game: 8. Average: 6.5.
This might have been Foster’s worst game. It did have one saving grace, though. He didn’t turn the ball over. He had lost 15 turnovers in his past four games.
Shane Southwell — 3.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 6.5.
Weber was too hard on Southwell following a loss at Iowa State in which he kept K-State in the game by making shots. He was too easy on Southwell following a win over Texas Tech. Southwell scored four points in 25 minutes and missed six of seven shots. The Wildcats need more from the senior.
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