Poor shooting plagued Kansas State again.
Shooting 18 percent from 3 and 36 percent from the field, the Wildcats lost to Charlotte, 68-61, in the opening game of the Puerto Rico Tip Off Thursday morning, in San Juan, P.R.
The Wildcats (2-2) will face the loser of Georgetown and Northeastern on Friday at 11:30 a.m. The network was not announced by press time.
K-State coach Bruce Weber said his team would have to adjust and move on to the next game.
“We’ve got to keep growing up and we’ve got to keep getting better, and that’s all you can do,” he said. “We’ll see what we’re about and if we make some strides.”
K-State made just 5 of 27 3-point attempts in the contest, shooting itself out of the game at times and rushing shots early in possessions. Still, the Wildcats managed to make a run at the 49ers’ lead.
Charlotte broke away early in the second half with a quick 6-0 run that seemed to pace the final period. The 49ers pushed their lead out to as many as 13 before the Wildcats could answer.
K-State chipped into the lead and pulled within two points with 5:13 left after a pair of free throws from Will Spradling. But Denzel Ingram hit a 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining to push the Charlotte lead to six points, and the Wildcats never recovered.
The Wildcats made two of their five 3s in the final minute of the game, as the 49ers were closing out the contest at the free-throw line. The Wildcats also shot poorly in their season-opening loss to Northern Colorado, making 33 percent of their shots from the field and just 10 percent from 3.
K-State again struggled on the inside, where its two posts combined to score just two points. In his second game back from injury, junior Thomas Gipson had two points and fouled out with 12:51 to go in the game. K-State was outrebounded 46-38.
“We’ve got to have some inside threat,” Weber said. “Thomas has got to learn to stay in the game.”
The positive for K-State was the way it played defensively, forcing the 49ers into 19 turnovers, including six steals and two shot-clock violations. Charlotte shot just 39 percent. But Weber said the rebounding played a factor defensively too.
“I think for the most part we were solid,” he said. “We thought it would come down to transition defense, one-on-one defense and then rebounding. It seemed like every time they got an offensive rebound, I’d love to see the percentage, but it seemed like they scored.”
Things got off to a really bad start early on for the Wildcats. K-State got ahead 8-7 before Charlotte went on a 13-0 run to go ahead 20-8. But the Wildcats managed to get it turned around.
A Spradling 3 ended the run with 9:57 and kick-started a 13-2 K-State run that would pull the Wildcats within one at 22-21. The run included two 3s from Nigel Johnson, the first points of his K-State career.
Spradling knocked down a layup with 8 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 30 at halftime.
“The start of the game and the start of the second half were key little periods,” Weber said. “Each time you’ve got to chase and catch up, it’s our fault that we come out and shoot fives 3s to start the second half.”
Fouls played a factor in the first half, as the Wildcats had four players with two fouls at halftime, and shot just two free throws in the whole half. The 49ers, meanwhile committed just eight fouls and one player, Willie Clayton, shot all 11 of their free throws.
Johnson led the Wildcats with a career-high 14 points off the bench, including 3 of 6 from the deep. Shane Southwell had 11 points and nine rebounds. Marcus Foster scored 11 points.
“Nigel obviously made some shots and that was important,” Weber said. “It allowed Will to go to the two and that helped him, even though he didn’t shoot the ball great.”