Wildcats take road woes to Lubbock

By Joel Jellison

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said he thought his team ran into a buzzsaw Saturday.

The Wildcats were playing an Oklahoma team that recently stumbled at home, losing to Texas Tech on Feb. 12.

But the Sooners followed that loss with a bye week, and for the second time this season, an opponent’s short break spelled disaster for the Wildcats.

K-State (18-9, 8-6 Big 12) lost to Iowa State on the road in a very similar situation last month after the Cyclones had come off a built-in bye week.

Now with the road losses mounting — six straight after Saturday’s 86-73 loss to the Sooners — the Wildcats are left searching for more answers and doing it with very little time before they have to go back on the road again.

K-State plays at Texas Tech (13-14, 5-9) on Tuesday — a 6 p.m. game on ESPN2.

“Look at everybody coming off a bye week and how they played,” Weber said following Saturday’s loss in Norman. “This is the second time we had to play somebody off a bye week on the road. I hope the league looks at it — you’re number of double road games, three out of four road games.

“We got to make sure, if we’re going to have a good league, to have a balanced schedule for everybody.”

It’s actually been a theme in the Big 12 this season. Both Iowa State and Oklahoma beat K-State at home following byes, while the Wildcats, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech each beat a team at home coming off byes.

Baylor and Kansas opened the season on bye weeks, playing their last non-conference game, while the others opened the Big 12 schedule. TCU played its first game off a bye, and of course lost, while West Virginia is the lone team to lose at home off its bye, which occurred on Saturday against Baylor.

Of course, Weber didn’t complain too much when his team came off its bye to beat both Texas and Kansas at home.

But scheduling doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem for the Wildcats, who have yet to figure out how to win any game on the road that isn’t played at 0-14 TCU — coming off a bye or not.

K-State is running out of chances, too.

At Oklahoma, the Wildcats needed a quick 7-1 scoring run at the end of the first half just to trail by 19 at halftime. And by the time K-State woke up in the second half, the game was nearly over.

It all came after Weber thought his team had turned a corner at Baylor, even with losing a double overtime game to the Bears.

“I thought we played with great energy at Baylor,” he said. “I think we had made some progress. I’m not sure there was energy (Saturday). It wasn’t as much toughness, fight, competitive spirit early, and we just kind of let them do what they wanted.”

Despite the six road losses in league play, the Wildcats were right there in four of the games, with a chance to win late in the contest. Weber said when it breaks down, K-State is just a few possessions from being in second place right now.

The Wildcats lost to Texas at the buzzer, had the ball down one in the final minutes at both Iowa State and West Virginia, and then lost to Baylor after the Bears forced overtime with a buzzer-beating 3. Beyond that, he said it’s easy to understand why they won close road games last season (6-3 on the road in Big 12), but have lost so many this year.

“We won road games last year, a lot of close ones, but what did we have?” he said. “Experienced veterans that had been through a lot of wars and won a lot of games.”

In theory, the Wildcats need a few more road wins to impress the NCAA tournament committee with a stronger resume. They’re running out of chances. After Tuesday’s meeting with the Red Raiders, K-State finishes its road schedule against Oklahoma State the following Monday.

In bracketology released on Sunday, CBS’ Jerry Palm dropped the Wildcats to a No. 9 seed, placing them squarely on his bubble watch. USA Today not only selected the Wildcats as a No. 9 seed, but put them in a potential rematch with Syracuse, who they lost to in the third round of the 2012 tournament.

With just four games left before the Big 12 tournament, Thomas Gipson said they know every game is important.

“We could end up top three, top four, we could end up in the bottom of the league,” he said. “It depends on us. Right now, it’s not looking good.”

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