Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 77-61 loss at Oklahoma State on Monday:
1. Will Spradling has to play 30-plus minutes for K-State to win.
Spradling never appeared more important than he did against the Cowboys. For the second straight game, he picked up two early fouls and barely played in the first half. With the senior shooter and leader of Bruce Weber’s motion offense on the floor, K-State took a quick lead. With him on the bench, Oklahoma State roared to a 35-27 halftime advantage. The Wildcats lose much of their offensive flow without Spradling. He is the only player on the roster who does as much without the ball as he does with it. Spradling only played 23 minutes on Monday, and you can blame both Spradling and Weber for that. Spradling committed two needless fouls by challenging OSU guards more than he needed to. He has to play smarter. But Weber should also have enough trust in Spradling to play him while he is in foul trouble. With the game slipping away from K-State in the first, Weber would have been smart to risk playing Spradling for a few more minutes.
2. Marcus Smart outplayed Marcus Foster.
Oklahoma State’s best player dominated K-State’s best player. It wasn’t even close. Smart smothered Foster on defense, forcing him into 12 missed shots and holding him to nine points. There were times Foster couldn’t even get open against him. Smart is one of the top defensive players in the nation, so maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. But Foster needs to learn from the experience. The next time a topnotch defender blankets him, he needs to find ways to get his teammates involved instead of putting up bricks.
3. Expect Kansas State to be the No. 4 or No. 5 seed at the Big 12 Tournament.
K-State’s hopes of finishing second in the Big 12 are all but dashed. It needs to beat Baylor and hope Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State all lose one of their final two games. That is very unlikely to happen. Oklahoma and Texas both have soft remaining schedules, and Iowa State will probably be favored in each of its games. Expect the Wildcats to play Texas or Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Thomas Gipson — 8.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 7.3.
Gipson brought his A-game, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Some of his dunks, off of rebounds, were especially impressive. He made four of six shots and grabbed seven offensive rebounds. Other than four turnovers, he had a brilliant game.
Wesley Iwundu — 7.5.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 5.6.
Iwundu was nails in the second half, scoring eight points and six rebounds. There were times he looked like the best player on the floor, and he finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Too bad he was mistake-prone in the first half.
Will Spradling – 6.
Last game: 8. Average: 6.7.
Even with foul trouble, the senior guard managed to score nine points and lead a second-half charge. But his foul trouble hurt the team’s bottom line. He also didn’t have a single assist.
Marcus Foster – 6.
Last game: 7. Average: 7.2.
K-State’s leading scorer managed just nine points on 4 of 16 shooting.
Nino Williams – 5.
Last game: 1. Average: 5.7.
Another player K-State could ill afford to have in foul trouble. Williams always seems to play well against Oklahoma State, but fouls limited him to 21 minutes of action on Monday. In that time he still had eight points and six rebounds. His quick foul at the start of the second half was particularly damaging. It forced him to the bench with three fouls and brought Shane Southwell into the game.
Ryan Schultz — 4
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.
The walkon had five points in mop-up duty.
Omari Lawrence — 4.
Last game: 3. Average: 4.3.
Lawrence had four points in nine minutes. No turnovers was a positive.
Shane Southwell — 3.
Last game: 7. Average: 5.4.
When Southwell was on the floor, bad things happened. He scored four points, making one of seven shots, and committed two costly turnovers that led directly to Oklahoma State points early in the second half when it looked like K-State was going to make a push.
D.J. Johnson — 2.
Last game: 9. Average: 4.3.
Johnson played with energy, but that didn’t lead to much production. He had two points and three rebounds.
Nigel Johnson — 1.
Last game: 6.5. Average: N/A.
K-State needed decent play from one of its backup point guards, and Johnson couldn’t deliver. He went scoreless.
Jevon Thomas — 1.
Last game: 6. Average: N/A.
Just when it looked like Thomas was taking a step forward, he takes a step back.
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