After Kansas State dropped its second Big 12 home game, this one a 63-60 decision to Oklahoma, Frank Martin finally admitted this team has a problem. While the defense has been good enough to win on most nights, K-State can’t shoot.
“It’s hard to win when you only have one guy who makes perimeter shots,” Martin said. “You’ve got to make some perimeter shots. It’s hard to crack a defense, it’s hard to get stuff done. Early in the year, when we were attacking zones and playing well, we had numerous guys making perimeter shots.”
K-State (15-5, 4-4) was 3-of-17 from three-point range (17.6 percent), making it the third-straight game the Wildcats have shot below 22 percent from long range. In its last three games combined, KSU is now 7-of-40 (17.5 percent).
It’s not that the shots haven’t been there.
Opposing defenses and coaches have gone mostly zone against the ice-cold ‘Cats, but when KSU runs its offense (which is sometimes a struggle by itself), confidence has become so low for some that the open looks are wasted.
“He’s to a point where he’s turning shots down,” Martin said of struggling sophomore guard Will Spradling. “He’s open against a zone; he’s not ready to shoot and won’t let it go.”
Spradling has been in a slump since conference play began, entering the night shooting 27.8 percent from the field and 28.1 from three. Against the Sooners, Spradling finished 2-of-10 FG and 0-of-5 from behind the arc. Afterward, Martin said the solution is more work.
“How ’bout get in the gym, shoot some balls,” Martin said. “All we do is tell him to keep shooting, praise him and make him understand that he has to make those shots to help us.”
Spradling wasn’t alone in his shooting struggles.
Angel Rodriguez entered the game as the team’s second-best long-range shooter in Big 12 play behind Rodney McGruder. Against OU, however, Rodriguez struggled with physical guard play, which affected his shots on the occasions a defender made a mistake.
“Angel had two plays where [Oklahoma] went right under screens, I mean way under screens,” Martin said. “[He was] wide open, and he barely hit the rim with either one. You’ve got to make some shots – make the defense honor you and get out on you so then it opens up the inside so you can attack it.”
For the season, KSU is now shooting 32.5 percent (109-of-335) from three.
McGruder finished with a team-high 19 points, but even he was just 1-of-6 from three. And, where other teams may have allowed K-State to grab several offensive rebounds, Oklahoma did a solid job wiping the glass, finishing with one less rebound overall (34-33) and holding K-State to 11 offensive rebounds.
Overall, I wrote before Saturday’s game that I felt Spradling’s and the team’s shooting should be alright. After seeing the team perform against OU, I’m not ready to give up on that, but I also don’t know that the poor shooting is going away anytime soon. The misses aren’t *barely* misses. There are bricks, glances off the rim, etc. From everybody other than when McGruder gets hot for stretches at a time. This is going to take more than just getting more shots up in practice or on a player’s own time
It is a huge problem this far into the season, but where I would normally say a team should rely on its offensive sets to create better easier shots, I’m not sure that trick is in the KSU bag; not after hearing Martin describe his team’s ability to execute sets.
“When you have nine turnovers from two guards that play major minutes on your team, it’s hard to win,” Martin lamented. “They’re not aggressive turnovers, either. You can’t turn the ball over 20 times and expect to win against good teams. You might beat a bad team. You aren’t going to beat a good team turning it over 20 [times].
“That continues to be a problem, especially when people get up and get after us. It disrupts us. We won’t run offense. The game was real physical, and we didn’t answer the bell.”
That same infliction was the culprit for a couple of K-State’s losses as well, according to the coach.
“Turnovers continue to kill us,” Martin said. “They killed us against Baylor. They killed us against West Virginia, and obviously they killed us here tonight.”