Monday, October 5, 2015

Road wins hard to come by for Wildcats

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber had a timely comparison for the way his team has played on the road this season following the Wildcats’ 81-71 loss on Saturday at West Virginia to open February.

“It’s Groundhog Day for us,” Weber quipped. “We keep repeating the same mistakes on the road. We don’t play very well in the first half, but are able to battle in the second half to give ourselves a chance.”

And while the Wildcats (15-7, 5-4) have had a chance to win three of the four road games they’ve lost in Big 12 play, each has come to an end the same way.

It started at Texas, where the Wildcats recovered from a poorly finished first half and took the lead in the final minute, only to lose on a buzzer beating 3-pointer. Then at Iowa State, the Wildcats rallied from 12 and 11-point deficits to tie the game late, but couldn’t muster up enough offense in the final minutes.

And there was a whole new disaster at West Virginia. The Wildcats allowed Juwan State to score a career-high 35 points, including 18 points at the free-throw line, and went from down one with the ball with 2:40 left, to losing by 10.

“We had three turnovers and four missed free throws down the stretch,” Weber said. “We need to execute better, I need to help our players and everybody needs to do a better job. This is what happens when you play good teams on the road sometimes. The Big 12 is not very forgiving.

“We had success a couple of times, but to their credit, they were able to put a stop to our success. We didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”

The Wildcats don’t have another game until Saturday, giving them time to rest and look for ways to improve. But they won’t go on the road again until they travel to Baylor on Feb. 15.

K-State’s next two game feature the Big 12’s top two teams. On Saturday, the Wildcats will host the league’s second-best team in Texas, which beat K-State already on Jan. 21. And then on Monday, the Wildcats will face Kansas, which lost its first Big 12 game on Saturday to the Longhorns.

So the schedule doesn’t get any easier for a K-State team reeling from its 1-4 league road record. Last season, when the Wildcats claimed a share of the league title, they were 6-3 on the road in the Big 12.

The Wildcats have lost three of their last four games, but are still fourth in the Big 12. The league standings are very tight from first to seventh, with preseason-No. 1 Oklahoma State sitting in seventh and preseason-No. 3 Baylor ninth.

The USA Today released its updated Bracketology on Monday morning, where it had seven teams from the Big 12 making the NCAA tournament, including Baylor. K-State was picked as a 10 seed in the East region, playing UMass in Buffalo, N.Y.

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