Cats look to improve vs. Eagles

By Joel Jellison

Since practice opened, Kansas State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber has said his team would need consistency and leadership from its upperclassmen, especially its seniors.

In last Friday’s season-opening game against Northern Colorado, the Wildcats got neither. And as a result, K-State lost 60-58.

“It was an eye opener,” senior Shane Southwell said. “It took us back to doing the little things.”

The Wildcats are hoping to get things turned around before they host Oral Roberts on Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State lost to the Bears because it couldn’t do much right. The Wildcats shot 33 percent from the field and made 48 percent of its 33 free-throw attempts. And despite numerous open looks from the perimeter, K-State made just 2 of 19.

But the problems went beyond shooting. The biggest area was in rebounding, where K-State was outrebounded 49 to 40, and allowed two offensive rebounds on missed free throw by the Bears in the final five minutes.

Weber said the areas that need improvement go beyond stats to mental areas of the game. Number one, the Wildcats need to show more emotion.

“If we could have made a couple more layups and free throws, we probably win the game,” he said. “The whole thing and the key for our success is figuring out roles, leadership and toughness. We need experience and games. My worst fears came about.

“We kept yelling during the game that we have to have emotion, leadership and we have to get people together. I can’t go onto the court. If I could or Chester (Frazier) or Chris (Lowery), we would but we can’t. That’s got to change.”

Three of K-State’s four seniors played against Northern Colorado, and combined to go 5 of 25 from the field. Weber said it looked like Southwell and senior point guard Will Spradling were forcing their shots.

Both Spradling and Southwell were 2 of 11 from the field, but both said the felt they had taken good shots. After watching film from the loss, Southwell said most of his missed shots were good looks that just didn’t fall.

“I felt like at 11 shots I (had) pretty makeable shots,” he said. “When we watched film I didn’t think any of the shots were bad shots. I just didn’t make them.”

Coming into Manhattan for Wednesday’s contest is a Golden Eagles team that might be even better than Northern Colorado. Oral Roberts defeated Tulsa 74-68 in its opener on Sunday, hammering the Golden Hurricane on the boards 45 to 28.

Weber said Oral Roberts appears to be a strong team that’s leaning on a pair of transfers in Obi Emegano (Western Illinois) and Shawn Glover (Utah).

“They beat Tulsa and we didn’t anticipate that,” he said. “Tulsa was supposed to be better. Watching them on film, they’re scary. They have some quickness. Coach (Scott) Sutton’s teams are always going to play hard and compete.

“People probably laughed when I said that Northern Colorado was pretty good. I told our guys that Oral Roberts might be better and might be a little more athletic.”

Freshman Wesley Iwundu, who led the Wildcats with 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, said the mood in the locker room has been positive, and that the team was looking ahead.

Spradling said they have to put the season-opening loss behind them and move forward.

“It’s hard, but we have a game on Wednesday, which is good to be able to redeem ourselves so quickly,” he said. “We’re just trying to look forward to that, and see what happens.”

The Wildcats were without junior forward Thomas Gipson in Friday’s loss and Southwell didn’t start with fellow senior Omari Lawrence getting the nod.

Southwell, who had seven points and eight assists in the game, said he’s working his way back into the starting lineup.

“I’m extremely hungry,” he said. “It’s not cool to be a senior not starting, especially when you feel that you are the best one on the team. You’ve got to gun for that.”

Weber indicated the reason behind Southwell not starting has to do with his performance in practice. And he was still unsure of whether Gipson would be ready to go by Wednesday.

“You have to do it every day in practice,” Weber said of Southwell. “Practice has got to be important. He has to be consistent. I can’t hand anything to anyone. If the other guys play better in practice, you’ve got to give it to them.”

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