Cats still seek elusive road wins

By Joel Jellison

Six chances, one win.

The Kansas State men’s basketball team has just three more opportunities to pick up another road win before the regular season ends, and all three will come in the next four games.

As the Wildcats (18-8, 8-5 Big 12) get set to play at Oklahoma on Saturday, they know it’s about time to pick up another win if they hope to improve an NCAA tournament resume that, as of now, has them in the 7 to 8 seed range.

“We won one, we beat TCU,” K-State coach Bruce Weber joked after Wednesday’s home win over the Horned Frogs. “It would be nice to get one obviously. The whole thing is building a resume. We’ve got great wins at home, we’ve got some neutral wins, it would be nice to get a nice win on the road, there’s no doubt.”

The Wildcats opened their Big 12 road schedule, where they beat TCU by 18 in a shaky performance. But they followed that with a 26-point loss at Kansas that made them look hapless. Then there were losses at Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia and, most recently, Baylor, all that featured K-State spoiling chances to win.

Last Saturday’s loss at Baylor might have been one of the tougher pills to swallow, as the Wildcats missed a late free throw to go ahead by four, and the Bears nailed a 3-pointer to force overtime. Two extra periods later, the Wildcats had lost by 14.

Still, Weber sees improvements in the way his team has played on the road. And he thinks they’ve learned from their shortcomings.

“I think we’ve made progress from the Kansas game, really from TCU — that wasn’t a great effort, wasn’t a masterpiece by any means,” he said. “Kansas we struggled, Texas we were right there, Baylor you’re right there. The thing I’ve begged and pleaded is to play defense and have energy the first half on the road. I think we made some strides with that the last two — now you’ve got to find a way to win it.”

The Sooners (19-7, 8-5) feature a high-powered offense that’s scoring the 13th most points in the NCAA (82.7), while their defense ranks among the worst in the conference.

K-State guard Will Spradling said the key with Oklahoma is to keep them from dictating the pace of the game, which is how the Wildcats defeated the Sooners 72-66 on Jan. 14 in Manhattan.

“They want to play really fast paced,” Spradling said. “We play fast tempo sometimes, but that’s not something we want to get into with them. We don’t want to make it a game of runs. We’ve really got to lock down on defense, push the ball when we have opportunities, but also take care of the ball and be smart.”

Taking care of the ball was a big issue for the Wildcats on Wednesday, turning it over 18 times which parlayed into 21 points for the Horned Frogs. Many of the errors were typical of a team lacking focus. Spradling doesn’t expect it to be an issue again.

“We had a lot that were unforced, threw it to guys that weren’t looking, balls going through hands, and that’s something that we don’t normally do, and something that comes with being prepared and ready to play,” he said. “I feel like every body’s going to be ready, especially Saturday at Oklahoma.”

The Sooners’ offense is led by Buddy Hield, a sophomore guard who played his high school ball at Wichita’s Sunrise Christian Academy. Hield is averaging 16.7 points per game, and his successes and failures often determine the success of OU offense.

“When he makes shots he really adds a whole another dimension,” Weber said. “Made big shots against Oklahoma State the other day, when they played Baylor he just killed their zone, made 3s, but they’ve got a lot of guys. They’re kind of like us, every game it’s a different guy.”

Past Hield, Cameron Clark is scoring 15.4 points per contest, while three others are averaging double figures, including Ryan Spangler’s line of 10.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

After Saturday’s game with Oklahoma, the Wildcats will be at Texas Tech on Tuesday.

Probable starters

K-STATE (18-8, 8-5)

Yr.  Ht.  Ppg.  Rpg.

G — Will Spradling Sr.  6-2 8.2 3.3

G — Marcus Foster Fr.  6-2 15.0 3.6

F — Wesley Iwundu Fr.  6-7 6.5 4.1

F — Nino Williams Jr.  6-5 6.4 3.2

F — Thomas Gipson Jr.  6-7 11.8 6.5


OKLAHOMA (19-7, 8-5)

Yr.  Ht.  Ppg.  Rpg.

G — Jordan Woodard Fr.  6-0 11.0 2.3

G — Isaiah Cousins So.  6-4 10.3 4.2

G — Buddy Hield So.  6-4 16.7 4.3

F — Cameron Clark Sr.  6-7 15.4 5.7

C — Ryan Spangler So.  6-8 10.5 9.9

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