Kansas State defeated Texas Tech 65-46 on Tuesday night in Bramlage Coliseum, but a harsh reality now exists for this team: If the Wildcats replicate Tuesday’s performance in any of their next four games, they’re going to suffer the consequences.
“We’re getting ready to have a long 10 days, if that’s our approach,” K-State head coach Frank Martin said.
K-State, now 17-6 overall and 6-5 in Big 12 play, faces its most brutal stretch of the season now. The Wildcats play at Texas on Saturday, return home for KU, and then hit the road for two straight games against top 10 teams in Baylor and Missouri.
That’s quite the contrast from facing the Red Raiders, who are now 0-11 in Big 12 play. And maybe this was a case of playing down to the competition — perhaps it was the stale environment created by all the empty seats in Bramlage. Whatever it was, it probably can’t happen again if K-State is going to accomplish what it wants to down the stretch.
“The assistants came in after warm-ups —they said we’re just giving you a heads up, this might not be very fun tonight,” Martin said. “There’s just no enthusiasm out there. That’s how we played.”
The Wildcats weren’t bad defensively, allowing just 46 points, which tied for the fifth-lowest scoring total for a league opponent against the Wildcats since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.
Texas Tech missed 21 of its first 27 shots, and had scored 20 points with 10:12 remaining in the game. The Red Raiders (7-16, 0-11) recorded just six assists compared to 22 turnovers and finished 28.9 percent from the field.
“The one thing I was excited about — I thought our zone defense was pretty good today,” Martin said. “I thought for the most part they talked, guarded the ball, got to the right places, didn’t give them easy shots. The other thing it did, we finally grabbed some defensive rebounds, we at least got something positive out of that.
“Our man-to-man defense wasn’t all that bad. We did some things well defensively.”
Offensively, it was a different story. The Wildcats made 15-of-50 (30 percent) from the floor, dished out eight assists and had 14 turnovers, and nearly scored more points at the free throw line than they did from the field.
Tech used a triangle-and-two defense in the first half to stall out the Wildcats’ offense, and it worked, as K-State shot just 23 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, yet still led 31-17.
“When they went triangle-and-two (in the first meeting) we scored three consecutive possessions, they never played it again,” Martin said. “They went triangle-and-two here and we decided to not run our offense.
“Guys played one-on-one, they didn’t do what they’re supposed to do. They take two guys away, everyone stands around and looks at the guy with the ball, you take bad shots, you don’t rebound it, you don’t post it, you don’t cut into the triangle.”
Martin took the blame for his team’s struggles on the offensive end against the triangle-and-two, which partially was a result of what lies ahead for this team.
“I tried to trust in the team that we could walk through something because it’s not something (Texas Tech) does full time, it’s something they’re going to do for a small segment of the game,” he said. “I tried to trust in the fact that that’s something we do and not have to utilize 20 more minutes of practice time, trying to keep our guys off their legs a little bit — not have to be as competitive in everything we do because we have four games in nine days, this being game number two. I obviously didn’t handle my job very well.”
K-State led 13-8 with 12:12 left in the first half, but neither team would score again until the 6:55-mark.
The Wildcats went nearly 8 minutes without a field goal in the first half, then went through another near-8-minute stretch late in the second half where they didn’t connect on a shot from the floor.
“We got real stagnant in the first half,” said Shane Southwell, who led K-State with 13 points. “We weren’t moving, weren’t passing the ball.”
Tech made it interesting with an 18-3 run to bring the Red Raiders to within 10 in the final 3 minutes, but K-State pulled away.
Things get significantly more difficult now, and if the Wildcats are going to find success, they’re going to have to play with more energy than they did on Tuesday.
“What happened today is not frustrating, it’s just unfortunate,” Martin said. “I’m disappointed that with eight games left in our season we can show up and not be enthusiastic about playing. It’s late in the year. All we did for the last two days was talk about it’s too late in the year to take a step back, every step we take has to be forward here, because the season doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.”
Because of that, K-State may not be able to save its legs on the practice floor.
“We’re extremely enthusiastic when we really go nuts in practice and get after each other and we tried not to do that,” Martin said. “Our practices the last two days, I’ve probably been as nice as I’ve been in 27 years. We might have to get after it again.”
Jones sidelined for a couple of weeks
Jeremy Jones, who has been battling an ankle injury since a loss to Oklahoma on Jan. 21, will miss approximately two weeks after an MRI revealed a fracture in the ankle.
“We took him to a doctor and there was no swelling,” Martin said. “We X-rayed it twice, the X-rays didn’t show anything, but he continued to complain about discomfort and when you watch him walk and run, you could tell he just couldn’t put that foot in the ground.
“So we finally got an MRI done. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you the name of the fracture, but it is deep inside the ankle, it’s not out in the foot, it’s deep inside the ankle joint. The MRI picked it up.”
Martin said the injury usually sidelines players for four weeks, but since Jones hasn’t played much of late the bone has started to already heal. Jones is expected to be in a walking boot during the next two weeks and should return before the season is over.
McGruder battling a toe injury
Rodney McGruder played 23 minutes on Tuesday, but just 8 minutes in the second half, as Martin tried to rest the Wildcats’ leading scorer. McGruder has a toe injury from what was an infected callus, and because of it, he didn’t practice the last two days leading up to Tuesday.
“The frustrating part as a coach is the guy that didn’t practice the last two days was the guy who had the most enthusiasm on the court,” Martin said.
The K-State coach said he was told by the Wildcats’ training staff that McGruder couldn’t damage the toe anymore by playing.