As the Kansas State men’s basketball team entered the final stretch of its schedule, there were times the Wildcats looked gassed.
In losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor in the last week, K-State didn’t seem to have the energy to compete in segments of the second half. And both times, their opponents took advantage.
As the Wildcats (20-11, 10-8 Big 12) head into the Big 12 tournament on Thursday, coach Bruce Weber said every coach in the country is dealing with the same thing.
‘We’ve gotten a lot out of them, there’s no doubt about it,’ Weber said. ‘I just told them, ‘hey, this is it, it’s a new season.’ It could be a week, could be two weeks, could be three weeks. It’s coming down to the end.
‘What ever you have in the tank, get the most out of it, and maybe go to the gas station and get re-filled.’
The Wildcats will need a fuller tank when they take on Iowa State at 11:30 a.m. at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
K-State split its meetings with the Cyclones (23-7, 11-7) during the regular season, but both games were tightly contested and came down to the final few minutes. If history repeats itself, both teams will be playing that type of game, yet again.
What Weber is hoping to avoid, is his team playing like it did in the regular- season finale against Baylor, a 76-74 loss at home.
‘I thought we got uptight the other day and I’m not sure why,’ he said. ‘We’ve been through so much, come so far — just go out and play and compete, enjoy each other, enjoy the opportunity. I think that will be a key on Thursday.’
Weber said the Baylor game reminded him on the Nov. 8 loss to Northern Colorado, the Wildcats only other loss at home this season and just the third in two seasons under Weber. The comparison he draws is from players trying to do things outside of the realm of their role. Whether it was Will Spradling forcing moves that resulted in turnovers or Shane Southwell trying to dribble too much, the loss came down to not executing the little things down the stretch.
‘Missed layups, missed free throws down the stretch,’ Weber said. ‘Tough to revisit that (Northern Colorado loss), but maybe we need to.’
K-State and Iowa State first met on Jan. 25, where the Wildcats lost in Ames, Iowa, 81-75. Trailing by one late in the game, Southwell had a shot blocked that led to a quick run from the Cyclones. On March 1, the teams met in Manhattan, where the Wildcats turned a tied game at 69, into a sevenpoint win in the final 2 1/2 minutes.
One other thing both games have featured is players from both teams getting chippy late in the contest.
‘I definitely feel like there’s a rivalry between us because we got into a little argument the first time at Iowa State and obviously a little bit here,’ K-State freshman Marcus Foster said. ‘We’re all competitive. When you’re really competitive, it brings out the best of you.’
As he prepares to play in his first Big 12 tournament, Foster said he expects the intensity to rise even more.
Foster nearly brought the Wildcats back from behind in the home finale with the Bears, making five 3-pointers in the final 4 1/2 minutes and three in the final minute.
Weber said although he’s worried that his team might be gassed, Foster’s performance at the end of the game shows guys still have something left in the tank.
K-STATE (20-11, 10-8) Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg. G—WillSpradling Sr. 6-2 8.0 3.1 G—MarcusFoster Fr. 6-2 15.4 3.3 F—WesleyIwundu Fr. 6-7 6.8 4.3 F—NinoWilliams Jr. 6-5 6.5 3.6 F—ThomasGipson Jr. 6-7 11.8 6.6 IOWA STATE (23-7, 11-7) Yr. Ht. Ppg.Rpg. G—MonteMorris Fr. 6-2 6.1 2.7 G—DeAndreKane Sr. 6-4 17.1 6.7 F—MelvinEjim Sr. 6-6 18.2 8.6 F—DustinHogue Jr. 6-6 10.4 8.6 F—GeorgesNiang So. 6-7 16.2 4.3