Wildcats need improvement on offense

By Joel Jellison

When it comes to shooting the ball, the Kansas State men’s basketball team has been atrocious.

The Wildcats might be fortunate to be 6-3 this season when a simple look at their shooting percentages and offensive numbers reveal just how bad they’ve been.

To paint the entire picture, there are 345 Division-I schools, and the Wildcats come in at 308th in field goal percentage at 40.8 percent. And that’s their best ranking.

K-State is 312th in points per game at 65.3, 322nd in free throw percentage at 62.7 and 329th in 3-point percentage at 27 percent.

Without a doubt, K-State needs to get better offensively if it hopes to keep its four-game winning streak alive tonight at home against Troy. The Wildcats’ schedule is about to toughen up too, as they get set to face a stretch of four opponents that are mid-major or above to finish out the non-conference slate.

That stretch begins tonight when the Wildcats host Troy (4-3) at 5 in Bramlage Coliseum. That means no more “easy” games from here on out — as if any game is that easy for a team that shoots so poorly.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said everyone is aware of what needs to take place.

“I think everyone knows we’ve got to get better,” he said this past week. “The competition gets bigger and better and it’s going to be tougher and tougher if we don’t make improvements.

“Right now, we probably don’t go as intense as we need to in practice and I hope that changes sooner rather than later.”

The Wildcats most recent game against South Dakota was another example of their drastic offensive shortcomings. They opened the game to a quick 15-4 deficit, and after coming back and taking the lead in the second half, K-State struggled to hold on to win the game.

The Wildcats made just 38 percent of their shots, and after a hot-shooting start in the second half, a simple defensive switch shut K-State back down.

“I thought we scored better in the second and then they went zone, and we didn’t make shots,” Weber said. “We had quite a few open shots that we didn’t make that could have changed the dynamic of the game.

“We haven’t shot well all year so I’m hoping it will come sometime here.”

The zone defense has been the Wildcats’ biggest nemesis this season, exploiting the youth and inexperience within the motion offense.

Freshman guard Marcus Foster said K-State is still sorting out its identity on offense. Foster is the team’s leading scorer at 14 points per game, while Thomas Gipson is chipping in 12 per contest.

But when those two are off the floor, it’s hard to figure out who is a legitimate scoring threat for the Wildcats. The other players who have scored in double figures for K-State this year have been too inconsistent game to game.

“We’ve got to get moving more,” Foster said. “Sometimes when offense isn’t going our way we just sit back and stand. We have a lot of young guys and people playing new roles. We’ve just got to get moving from the start.”

Weber said there is a lot of work that needs to be done with the offense. And it starts with better ball movement.

“A little better execution, decision making, when you’re open — shoot it — when you’re not — make the next pass,” he said. “We don’t see things. Probably our weakness compared to last year, we had so many people that could make passes. These young guys just don’t see it yet.”

The shooting issues have also bled to the free-throw line, of course, where the Wildcats made just three of their last 10 shots to close out Tuesday’s game. It nearly cost them, too, as South Dakota was given an ample number of opportunities to tie the game or take the lead.

Gipson stated the obvious — the Wildcats have to make their free throws.

“The game would not have been as close if we made our free throws,” he said. “If all of the guys made their free throws, we would not be up by only two with 2 seconds left in the game.”

The Wildcats will have their first shot to pick things up offensively today, with upcoming games against Gonzaga, Tulane and George Washington before conference play begins in January.

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