Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: West Virginia 81, Kansas State 71

Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 81-71 loss against West Virginia on Saturday at WVU Coliseum:

1. Kansas State is a bad road team.
That much might be obvious based on the Wildcats’ 1-4 road record, but it is shocking how differently they play on the road than at home. Last month, K-State obliterated West Virginia at Bramlage Coliseum. The game was over at halftime, and Bruce Weber played everyone in the second half. Things were completely different in Morgantown. This time, West Virginia’s guards, especially Juwan Staten, (his 35 points were the most by a Big 12 player this season) had their way with K-State defenders. The Wildcats didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of them on the perimeter. The Mountaineers used a different strategy on offense, but that can’t explain that big of a change. The road venue got to the Wildcats, who hurt themselves by looking sluggish on defense and tight on offense. That combination led to a 39-31 halftime deficit. That makes four-straight road games in which K-State has trailed at halftime. All four ended in losses. That needs to change. Sure, K-State’s late-game execution was also poor in those games, but better starts would increase its margin for error.

2.Shane Southwell and Jevon Thomas need to do more.
Southwell is an excellent passer and one of K-State’s top shooters, but he is making too many mistakes for those qualities to shine through. Thomas is a strong ball-handler and an outstanding defender, but he is missing too many shots to justify major playing time. Both players need to improve their all-around games for K-State to start playing at a higher level. A good example of this occurred in the first half, when Southwell and Thomas led a two-on-one fastbreak, but failed to score. On the play, Southwell passed to Thomas and then ran to the rim for an alley-oop dunk. Thomas kept the ball and decided to shoot himself. They ended up nearly colliding under the basket, and no one scored. Southwell had five points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. Thomas had one points and two assists in 11 minutes. That’s not good enough, especially on the road. Southwell made mistake after mistake, including stepping out of bounds (when he could have called a timeout) while being trapped in crunch time. Thomas spent most of the time on the bench, watching lesser K-State defenders struggle against Staten.

3. K-State vs. Texas at Bramlage Coliseum is going to be a mighty important game.
Not long after K-State lost at West Virginia, Bruce Weber essentially declared next weekend’s game against Texas as a must-win. “We’ve to get Texas next Saturday,” Weber said. “It is going to be big.” No kidding. The Longhorns, who have defeated four straight ranked opponents, are the Big 12’s hottest team. They are coming off a thorough victory over Kansas, and should come to Manhattan with an impressive ranking. Nevertheless, the game will mean more to K-State. At 5-4 in the Big 12, the Wildcats need a victory to stay above .500 in the conference standings and boost their NCAA Tournament resume.

Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Marcus Foster — 8.5.
Last game: 3. Average: 6.7.
The freshman guard did all he could to keep K-State in this game offensively, scoring 23 points on 16 shots. Foster usually isn’t the most efficient of scorers, but he did well for himself against West Virginia. His mistakes came on three turnovers and on defense.

Thomas Gipson — 8.
Last game: 5. Average: 7.1.
The big man gave K-State 19 points and eight rebounds, but he lost four turnovers. The pass he attempted to Southwell late was particularly ill-advised.

Wesley Iwundu — 6.5.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 5.7

The freshman forward passed the ball well, ending with three assists, and didn’t make any major mistakes. But he needs to find ways to get more involved under the basket.

Will Spradling — 5.
Last game: 9. Average: 6.4.

His perimeter defense was no match for Staten, and he turned the ball over three times. Spradling was OK on offense, scoring nine points, but this was his worst game in a while.

Nino Williams –5.
Last game: 7. Average: 5.7.

He came off the bench to score four points. This was the type of game where he could have done more.

Nigel Johnson — 4.
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.

He looked OK, considering he hadn’t played in a while.

Shane Southwell — 3.5.
Last game: 3. Average: 6.3.

Southwell was at his best against West Virginia last month. He was near his worst against West Virginia on Saturday.

Omari Lawrence — 3.
Last game: 6. Average: 3.8.

The guard came off the bench to score two points.

D.J. Johnson — 2.5.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 3.2.

Missed an open layup, and didn’t record many positive stats.

Jevon Thomas — 2.
Last game: 4. Average: 5.2.

K-State coaches opted to keep their best defender on the bench, even though no one else on the team could match Staten. This was a missed opportunity for Thomas.

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Twitter: @KellisRobinett