Maybe it was the Kansas State starters shooting a combined 7-of-27 from the floor. Or, maybe it was watching hapless Texas Tech hold, at one point, a plus-10 advantage on the boards over the Wildcats. Or, just when you thought a 25-point, second-half lead was safe, maybe it was watching Lubbock’s little critters chomp away until the Red Raiders were down just 10. All I could think was, “UG” and “LEE.”
It’s a good thing Tech’s script has been written as such this season that no matter how hard it tries to take a bite out of better teams, it will ultimately lose. So, it was a 65-46 win for KSU alright. But, getting to 17-6, 6-5, did nothing to oppose the thought that this team is a master at making hard things that should be easy.
There’s something to be said for that “ability” in November and the first part of December. For teams hoping to make the NCAA Tournament field, it shouldn’t be happening in February.
“It is called immaturity and not respecting the fact that your senior teammates are down to eight opportunities,” K-State head coach Frank Martin said after the win. “We should be past that this time of year. Obviously, we were not today. I did not do a good job of getting them excited today.”
This isn’t to say the question is wrong, but shouldn’t the seniors themselves be questioned as well when Jamar Samuels puts up a 0/4 FG, 1 point, 4 rebounds, 12 minutes stat line? Add in Victor Ojeleye’s night and combined, the two seniors totaled 17 minutes, 1 point, 5 rebounds and 5 fouls. Samuels battled foul trouble (as he oft does), and Ojeleye’s time was limited, but neither had nights personally that said they were lonesome, warrior leaders with no followers.
Regardless, no excitement, Martin said, was something that appeared would be a problem throughout the evening.
“The assistants came in after warm-up, because I have to stay locked up like a caged animal, and they said ‘We are just giving you a heads-up; this might not be very fun tonight. There is just no enthusiasm,’” Martin said. “That is the way that we played. Defensively, we were okay. We got to our spots and tried to take care of some of the responsibilities that we put on them.
“Lamont Evans worked his tail off to prepare us for this game and that showed in some of the attention to detail on defense. Offensively, we were watching guys walk around. I started a diet about three weeks ago, so it put me in a bad mood.”
To start, for a team that makes its living on effort more than anything else, that had to be wholly disappointing to the staff; and hopefully the players. That said, when you’re in the middle of an exam, it’s hard to be enthusiastic, which is what happened to K-State as Texas Tech took KSU to school with its triangle-and-two defense.*
*I admit, it even took me rewinding the DVR a few times to catch on to what scheme Billy Gillispie employed. Part of the reason it took awhile to understand was K-State’s doing. Guys were bunched in the middle, trying to set screens on defenders who weren’t complying. Other offensive players were just slow to react. It left a jam, and it wasn’t until K-State pulled the ball back out and the defense spaced out that it became clear what was happening. Now, try figuring that out in a split second in the middle of a Big 12 game. Ah, adjustments…
It was a beautiful coaching move by Gillispie to throw yet another wrench into a machine that has barely choked to life without added hassle since late December. K-State has enough problems trying to find itself offensively, especially since Rodney McGruder’s insane, mid-season output has leveled off because of a toe injury, defenses focusing on him or his play simply leveling off some.
On Tuesday, guys again stood for far too long. Guards dribbled without purpose. As noted, the starters were collectively awful shooting.
“We did not do what we were supposed to do, so then take two guys away and everyone stands around looking at the ball,” Martin said. “We took bad shots and did not rebound. We did not post or cut the triangle, and that is on me because I tried to trust in the team that we can walk through something because that is not something that we do full-time; it is something they are going to do for a small segment of the game.
“I tried to trust in the fact that is something that we do and not utilize 20 more minutes of practice time and trying to keep our guys off their legs a little bit because we only have so many games. We have four games in nine days with this being game number two. We need to get them off their legs and not be as competitive in everything that we do.
“But obviously, I did not handle my job very well. I should have spent more time to prepare on the triangle-and-two.”
It is impossible to disagree.
All of it led to head-shaking statistics like Martavious Irving and Shane Southwell combining for eight 3-point attempts when Will Spradling, McGruder and Angel Rodriguez collectively attempted two fewer. Southwell led the team with 10 field goal attempts. No post player had more than four. The team made 15 of 50 field goal attempts.
Letting that sink in will make a person go cross-eyed.
It also will make someone approach with trepidation trying to analyze the Wildcats’ chances through the rest of the regular season. If K-State can motivate itself adequately, 5-2 is an attainable goal. If not, there is an unlikely but outside shot the ‘Cats finish with fewer than 20 wins in the regular season for the first time in Martin’s tenure.
K-State normally has no problem kicking itself into gear in a bracket setting. Perhaps the message should be that their tournament needs to start now.