There are a couple ways to look at Kansas State’s 65-61 road loss to TCU on Saturday, and each represents a different trend for the Wildcats, who are struggling to stay afloat at the moment.
Let’s start with a couple superlative outings.
K-State forward Jasauen Beard was one of the best players on the floor — on either team. The senior posted 16 points, a season best, and she shot an efficient 6-for-10 from the floor. She pulled down four rebounds. She was a plus-12 in the box score, best on the team by far.
For the Wildcats, the key aspect was that she did so in just 14 minutes.
That’s a double-edged sword, though. The reason she played so few minutes was because she was saddled with foul trouble in the first half. Two of those came on charging fouls. K-State coach Jeff Mittie had to pull her.
“She’s such an aggressive player,” Mittie said. “There’s always that balance. I liked the way she played in the second half, and certainly, she gave us a big lift.”
Beard’s minutes usually hover around the 15-to-20 mark, even though she’s started the last nine games. That’s because she’s filling in for injured guard Rachel Ranke, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in December.
That pressed Beard into action. She isn’t playing the 30-plus minutes that the Wildcats’ other four starters — Angela Harris, Chrissy Carr, Peyton Williams and Ayoka Lee — usually log.
Generally, she’s handled the transition well. She’s posted eight-plus points in four of the last five games, and the way she combines her mid-range game with rangy defense makes her a valuable asset, starting or off the bench.
Take it from her teammates, the ones with the best view.
“She plays pretty much one speed, and I love that about her,” Williams said. “You know when she gets in the game, there’s going to be energy when she comes in, and that’s what we needed in the TCU game coming out of halftime.”
Speaking of Williams: She had a career game, too.
She scored 12 points and grabbed 22 rebounds, a program record for most rebounds in a single game.
If that record sounds familiar, that’s because it should. Williams broke the record that Lee tied back on Jan. 25, when she snared 20 boards.
"'Yoki' and I have been raking in some rebounds,"Williams said. "So it’s always kind of a competition between the two of us to see who can get the most."
Joking aside, Williams was careful to point something out: Eight of her 22 rebounds were offensive, and several of those came off her own misses. If she made those shots to begin with, she said, maybe K-State escapes with a win.
That didn’t happen, though, which leaves Williams with a difficult balance. She set a program record, which doesn’t happen very often, but she did so in a loss. The Wildcats are below .500 again.
“It’s tough either way,” Williams said, “but maybe we can set a new record in a game that we win. So who knows.”
Which brings us to K-State’s next task: A home matchup with Texas Tech on Wednesday evening.
This game brings intrigue to the fold, and not just because K-State is trying to escape this one-step-forward, two-steps-back pattern. The Wildcats actually own a win over the Red Raiders earlier this season.
K-State claimed a 76-72 win over Texas Tech on Jan. 11. In that game, three Wildcats — Williams, Lee and Harris — scored in double figures. After a late Lee layup, K-State won what turned into a free throw shooting contest to ice the game.
That raises an interesting question: Now that K-State has faced every conference opponent — save for Baylor — how does familiarity figure into the calculus?
Texas Tech has gotten hot. In their 109-79 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Red Raiders shot a blistering 20-for-31 beyond the arc. Seven different players hit a triple.
Here is where we acknowledge the probable: Texas Tech likely won’t make 20 triples against K-State on Wednesday. There’s a reason why that was a program record.
Still, Mittie and Co. have to be ready, lest something similar transpires. The Red Raiders have been getting looks in a few ways, Mittie said: in transition, off set plays, off pick-and-pops, off drive-and-kicks.
The good news for the Wildcats is just that — their coaching staff already is familiar with what they’ll be dealing with when 6:30 p.m. rolls around Wednesday.
“Any time you face 3-point shooters, you’ve got to get them uncomfortable. You’ve got to disrupt them,” Mittie said. “How you do that, within what we do, well, we’ll probably switch defenses. That’s one of the ways we try to do it is to switch defenses, to not let them get in a rhythm of knowing they can come off this screen and get this coverage.
"So our team has to be on-task when we do those things. I think our team is getting better at that throughout the year.”