Even though the shots haven’t always fallen on offense, the Kansas State men’s basketball team has by and large played good defense this season.
(Kansas State’s Marcus Foster tries to get past Troy’s Hunter Williams on Sunday night at Bramlage Coliseum. Foster had14 points in the Wildcats’ 72-43 victory).
That trend continued in Sunday’s 72-43 rout of Troy at Bramlage Coliseum.
K-State was dominant from start to finish, building a double-digit lead in the first five minutes that only got larger as the game wore on while Troy continued to miss shots and lose the rebounding battle.
The Trojans scored just 15 points in the first half and didn’t get much better in the second, even as K-State head coach Bruce Weber emptied his bench.
“We wrote on the board, energy, effort, persistence and play as a team,” Weber said. “I think we had great energy and set the tone of the game from the beginning with our defense. We held them to nine points through the first 18 or 19 minutes of the game. They hit a couple of (baskets) at the end of the half to get to 15, so we did a pretty good job defensively.”
The Trojans (4-4) finished the game shooting 36 percent from the floor, but did so only after a 45 percent shooting clip in the second half, much of it coming in the game’s final 10 minutes.
K-State (7-3), meanwhile, shot 43 percent in the contest, knocking down open shots against Troy’s zone defense and getting plenty of second chances with 17 offensive rebounds. The Wildcats also moved the basketball well, getting an assist on all but four of its field goals.
“We really moved the basketball,” Weber said. “I think the best stat on the stat sheet is our 24 assists on 28 baskets, so almost every basket we had an assist. It was a great job of sharing the basketball and moving it.”
Weber called the effort the team’s best of the season in terms of passing, led by Shane Southwell, who scored just seven points but had a turnover-free game with seven assists.
“We’ve talked about that, to make the extra pass,” Weber said. “The freshmen are starting to get a little better. I thought we cut it in the middle and got it to Shane. He had seven assists and no turnovers and he made some nice passes out of that.”
After taking a 22-point lead to the break, K-State came out firing on all cylinders to open the second half, using a 13-2 run in the first six minutes to force a Troy timeout and open up a 50-17 lead, its biggest of the game.
Will Spradling and Marcus Foster tied for the scoring lead in the game, each with 14 points, but the Wildcats had 11 players crack the scoring column.
For Spradling, the good offensive day came at the right time, as the senior has battled inconsistency shooting the basketball. His 14 points were a season high and just the third game he’s scored in double figures.
(Kansas State’s Will Spradling looks to make a pass Sunday against Troy. Spradling scored 14 points in the win).
“I felt great all week,” Spradling said. “I’ve been doing well in practice — shooting the ball really well. The coaches have really been on me to shoot it more. That’s something that I tried to do today.”
In the case of Foster, it was just another day at the office as the freshman scored nine of K-State’s first 16 points, while using his athleticism to get to the rim for layups against the Troy defense.
“He’s been pretty good for a freshman,” Weber said. “And I know he’ll get better, because he wants to.”
The game allowed several little-used reserves the chance to play extended minutes, including Brian Rohleder, who scored his first basket of the season. He was previously the only player on the team to have any minutes without a field goal this season.
Early on, it was all Wildcats, with Foster scoring seven quick points in the first four minutes of the game to help give K-State a 14-2 lead. Another 8-0 run midway through the first half made it 24-7 in favor of the Wildcats, but the lead could have been even larger. Troy went nearly eight minutes without scoring, but K-State struggled to hit open shots against the Trojans’ zone.
K-State took a 37-15 lead to halftime, with nine players in the scoring column. The Wildcats finished the first half with more offensive rebounds (14) than Troy had total rebounds. They also had a 12-2 assist advantage at the break.
While this game was decided by halftime, the Wildcats have a tougher test coming on Saturday against No. 20 Gonzaga (10-1) in Wichita. Between finals week and several players dealing with nagging injuries or illness, preparation will be that much tougher this week against a team that won 68-52 against K-State a year ago.
“They smacked us last year pretty bad in Seattle, and it was a good learning tool for us,” Weber said. “Mark (Few’s) teams have gotten tougher and tougher, led by Pangos, one of the better and more experienced guards.”
Thomas to sit Saturday
Weber said freshman guard Jevon Thomas will not play in Saturday’s tilt with Gonzaga in Wichita. Thomas, who sat out first semester, is eligible as soon as the fall semester ends on Friday.
Weber said Thomas will get the chance to play against Tulane the following Saturday.
Weber not tweeting
Midway through Sunday’s game, Weber’s Twitter account, @coachbruceweber, sent out a tweet in response to a fan asking about Thomas’ status for Saturday’s game against Gonzaga.
The tweet read, “Jevon Thomas is not eligible until the end of the semester which is Friday.”
Several fans on Twitter felt Weber should spend his time coaching his players instead of tweeting to fans. The tweet was not sent by Weber, who was unaware of it until told during the postgame press conference.
The tweet was sent by a member of the K-State Sports Information staff.