1. The Wildcats need a healthy Shane Southwell.
An argument can be made for Nino Williams replacing Shane Southwell in the starting lineup. The junior forward has scored 20 and 11 points with Southwell on the bench with an injury to his left ankle. That’s a lot more production than Southwell has given K-State lately. Still, the Wildcats need Southwell in their rotation. Why? Because when Williams gets into foul trouble and Wesley Iwundu plays poorly, as was the case against TCU, Bruce Weber puts walkon Ryan Schultz into the game. They are much better off with Southwell on the floor. Williams and Southwell are both foul-prone players. Williams averages nearly three fouls and fouled out against TCU. Southwell has a bad habit of picking up two quick fouls. When both players are healthy, they have some room for error. One of them can afford to be in foul trouble. When only one of them is healthy, they have to play cautiously. K-State is at its best when Weber can sub them in and out for each other.
2. K-State could not have played worse in the first half.
The Wildcats made so many mistakes in the first half that at least one of them should be included on ESPN’s “Not Top 10″ plays of the week. Schultz missed the rim by a foot while attempting a layup. Thomas Gipson and Marcus Foster lost three turnovers apiece. And Nigel Johnson heaved a long pass up court to an unsuspecting Foster, who barely got a hand on the ball as it went out of bounds. They were all awful. Fortunately, K-State chose a good night to play poorly. TCU (a contender for the worst team in Big 12 history) wasn’t good enough to take advantage. Still, it’s a bit concerning that K-State didn’t play with more effort and poise.
3. The rest of the regular season should be interesting.
There are five games left before the Big 12 Tournament, and they should all be intriguing. The stretch starts Saturday with a trip to Oklahoma, then a road game at Texas Tech, a home game with Iowa State, a road game at Oklahoma State and senior night against Baylor. Given K-State’s recent results (win at home/lose on the road) a 2-3 closing record is the expectation. But all five games could be toss-ups. Oklahoma and Texas Tech are playing well at home, Oklahoma State is getting Marcus Smart back, and Iowa State and Baylor have the talent to win at Bramlage Coliseum. Right now, K-State is looking like a 8/9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. How it handles the next five games will determine whether that projection improves or worsens.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Thomas Gipson — 7.5.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 7.2.
Gipson was the main reason K-State won, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He muscled his way through double-teams and found a way to contribute at a high level. But five turnovers was a negative.
Will Spradling — 7.
Last game: 7. Average: 6.8.
Weber may want to consider getting Spradling more involved in the offense. He plays more minutes than anyone on the team, but he doesn’t take many shots. He managed 10 points, four rebounds and three assists against TCU.
Nino Williams — 6.5.
Last game: 9. Average: 6.3.
Williams continues to be a productive player — when he is on the floor. He scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes against TCU. But he also picked up two early fouls and fouled out. K-State wanted him to be on the court nearly 30 minutes.
Omari Lawrence — 6.5.
Last game: 5.5. Average: 4.5.
The senior guard had nine points and four rebounds in 19 minutes. He continues to play an important role off the bench for K-State.
Marcus Foster — 6
Last game: 8.5. Average: 7.2.
Foster took a step back in this game. Sure, he scored 13 points and had six assists, but he also missed 12 shots and lost five turnovers. He looked like the inefficient player he was a month ago.
D.J. Johnson — 6.
Last game: 6. Average: 4.4.
Four points, four offensive rebounds and four defensive rebounds. Johnson was consistent in his efforts.
Jevon Thomas — 5.
Last game: 5. Average: N/A.
The freshman point guard helped slow TCU’s Kyan Anderson in the second half. But his moment of the night came on his only point, a made free throw after one of the worst missed free throws you will ever see. The crowd erupted in sarcastic applause when it swished through the net.
Wesley Iwundu — 1.
Last game: 1. Average: 5.1.
Iwundu appears to be hitting the so-called “freshman wall.” For weeks, he looked like one of K-State’s most consistent players. Now he has turned in back-to-back clunkers. He didn’t score against TCU and only played for 11 minutes.
Ryan Schultz — 1.
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.
The walkon will surely catch grief from his teammates for air-balling a layup in the first half. But he did later score on a free throw.
Nigel Johnson — 0
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.
Weber channeled Frank Martin when he pulled Johnson out of the game the moment he tried to complete a long pass to an unsuspecting Foster in the first half. He deserved to sit. Johnson didn’t record a positive stat and was no match for Anderson on defense.
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