Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 60-56 victory at Texas Tech on Tuesday:
1. Wesley Iwundu may have smashed through the metaphorical freshman wall.
For much of the season, Welsey Iwundu was one of the most dependable players on K-State’s roster. He never gave the Wildcats 25 points or 15 rebounds, but he rarely made mistakes. He made shots when he was open, he grabbed boards when he could and he made smart passes. He was consistent. Then, his play dropped dramatically. He was so bad against Baylor and TCU that Bruce Weber barely played him and his teammates began privately criticizing his play. He didn’t look much better at Oklahoma. But his old form returned at Texas Tech. He made two clutch free throws after a flagrant foul and he knocked down an off-balance shot while being fouled to give K-State a late lead. And, surprise, the Wildcats won. They are a much better team when Iwundu plays well. Perhaps he is over his slump.
2. The Wildcats needed this win.
Sorry if that sounds like the understatement of the year, but it’s worth mentioning. K-State couldn’t afford to lose this game. A closing schedule of Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor is hard enough. It’s even harder without momentum. K-State’s six-game road losing streak was producing new levels of frustration with players, and they didn’t want to carry a seven-game skid into Stillwater on Big Monday. Now it will be easier for them to focus on closing strong. Said senior guard Will Spradling: “It’s a time to clamp down and really get after it.”
3.Shane Southwell needs to do more.
For a brief moment Tuesday evening, Weber’s voice could be heard over the large student crowd that filled United Spirit Arena. It was the beginning of the second half, and he wasn’t happy. “Where’s the energy?” He shouted. “Let’s stay locked in.” The words seemed like simple motivation from a coach, and most of K-State’s players nodded in response. But Southwell seemed confused. He turned away from his defensive assignment and shouted back at Weber, as if to argue he was already playing to the best of his abilities. Weber called timeout a moment later and had some harsh words for the senior forward. It was an odd exchange, and Southwell didn’t play much after that. K-State needs more from him. He should be leading, not arguing. He appears healthy, and he is capable of being one of the team’s best players.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Marcus Foster – 8.5.
Last game: 7. Average: 7.3.
Forget that he missed seven shots or had a slow first half. Foster took this game over when K-State needed him to. He hit two enormous three-pointers, made quality passes and came away with a game-changing steal on his way to 17 points.
Wesley Iwundu — 7.5.
Last game: 4.5. Average: 5.3.
Iwundu has been one of K-State’s most disappointing players lately, but that changed against Texas Tech. The freshman forward came through with two very clutch plays and finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
Will Spradling – 7.
Last game: 5. Average: 6.6.
All three of his three-pointers were huge, and he played quality defense most of the way. But losing back-to-back turnovers against a full-court press kept Texas Tech in the game. So did missing a late free throw.
Thomas Gipson — 6.5.
Last game: 5.5. Average: 7.1.
Gipson was perfect from the free-throw line, making all four of his attempts on his way to 10 points. He also only lost one turnover. That’s a positive. He got beaten on the glass, though.
Nino Williams – 6.5.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 6.3.
Nobody on K-State’s roster completes more and-one shots than Williams. He used that skill to his advantage, scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds.
Nigel Johnson — 5.
Last game: 6. Average: N/A.
The freshman point guard scored four points in 14 minutes. Hard to ask for much more out of him in a tough road environment.
D.J. Johnson — 4.
Last game: 3. Average: 4.1.
He played well on defense, blocking three shots. But he didn’t score.
Omari Lawrence — 3.
Last game: 4. Average: 4.5.
Lawrence hasn’t made an impact on back-to-back games. He didn’t score against Texas Tech.
Jevon Thomas — 2.
Last game: 3. Average: N/A.
Thomas misses more layups than Jamar Samuels.
Shane Southwell — 1.
Last game: 3. Average: 5.4.
The senior guard keeps making poor decisions, like attacking a defender on a fastbreak when he has numbers and should pass the ball.
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