KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Maybe it was the missed 3s. Or the missed layups. Or the lack of rebounding.
If fatigue factored into Kansas State’s 63-59 loss to Iowa State Friday evening, it was hard to tell how it manifested, K-State coach Bruce Weber said. His team had plenty go wrong down the stretch.
Cartier Diarra missed an open 3 in the final minute that would have tied the game. Iowa State guard Marial Shayok connected on one off an offensive rebound. In sum, the Wildcats made just 5 of their 18 layups.
Still, it wasn’t clear to Weber.
“How do you make 3s with legs? Maybe you don’t have the legs,” Weber said. “But Barry (Brown) had legs, he got down, Cartier made one before that. I don’t know. Maybe a little bit. We had a lot of chances. We missed layups. We missed open 3s. Hopefully it’s a learning thing.”
K-State is hardly healthy headed into next week’s NCAA Tournament. A foot injury held star forward Dean Wade out of both of his team’s two Big 12 Tournament games, and Weber said guard Kamau Stokes has been battling migraines and a nagging toe injury. Diarra had missed a month with a hand injury before returning on Thursday.
If there was a consensus among the Wildcats themselves, though, it was this: exhaustion didn’t affect anyone. If it did, they didn’t acknowledge it.
“Definitely can’t use fatigue as a factor,” K-State guard Mike McGuirl said. “Everybody’s feeling the same way. They’re in the same position we are. You’ve got to fight through it. It’s March. The feeling of being tired has got to go in the trash, and you’ve just got to enjoy it because it’s the best basketball in the world, March Madness.”
Still, the signs were there. Swingman Xavier Sneed, who Weber said after the game was “boogered up” and needed rest, asked out of the game a few times. The rest of K-State’s starters all played upward of 30 minutes, led by Stokes, who logged 39. Even Diarra left the game for a stretch after getting hit going to the rim.
Yet ask the players, and they’ll tell you they weren’t tired. Stokes said it was simpler than that.
“We missed open shots,” said Stokes, who posted 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting. “Good penetration, fast break opportunities. When you miss open shots like that, it definitely can hurt you.”
There’s a point there. K-State shot just 35 percent from the field, and just 30 percent from beyond the arc. Sneed made just 1 of 6 tries from distance. In fact, K-State had zero bench points.
But Brown agreed with Stokes.
“I was less tired today than I was yesterday,” he said.
K-State’s options are limited now, though: move on. The Wildcats are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and they’re projected to earn a No. 4 seed, even with Friday’s result. They could play in San Jose, California, or in Salt Lake City.
It’s up the air, in other words. So for now, the Wildcats can rest.
Not that they’re happy about it.
“To us, honestly, it wouldn’t have even mattered,” Stokes said. “We wanted to win this tournament. That was our main goal, so we wouldn’t have had no rest. But now that we do, of course we’ve got to capitalize on it.”
McGuirl, for his part, said he sees the value in a little time off his feet.
“It’ll probably help (with) some legs,” McGuirl said of the chance to rest, “but it’s the NCAA Tournament. It’s what you look forward to your whole entire life as a basketball player. At the end of the day, you can’t feel that feeling of fatigue. You’ve just got to play and have fun with it. Then all that goes out the window.”