Prior to Tuesday’s game at No. 18 Texas Tech, Kansas State’s Bruce Weber wrote on the whiteboard — among other goals — for his team to “play with emotion.”
The Wildcats heeded their coach’s advice. They just got a little carried away.
Officials rang up K-State for two technical fouls — assessed to freshmen Selton Miguel and Seryee Lewis — to add to Texas Tech’s decided advantage in the free throw department.
K-State’s players lack of poise with their temperament proved costly, as it went on to lose 82-71 in Lubbock, Texas.
Weber said there was no “silver lining” to the technicals. Showing energy, he said, is one thing. But it has to be contained.
“The only silver lining is that you hopefully learn from it and it never happens again,” Weber said. “We’ve talked about it in practice several times: You just can’t do that. You can’t do it on national TV, with Final Four refs. It’s not allowed. They had to learn the hard way. It’s disappointing, because both of them, we gave them four points.”
Senior guard Mike McGuirl, who had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists, conceded it’s a delicate balance.
“You’ve got to be able to play in this high-emotion situation, but control them,” he said. “In these situations as players, we get hyped up, and sometimes, we get overhyped. But it’s just learning for them. They did well. They handled it well, I believe, but we could be even better, for sure. We’ll all learn from it and be better.”
The Red Raiders sank all four free throws stemming from the technicals.
It was part of a dominant performance at the line for Texas Tech, which had a whopping 36 attempts, hitting 30 — a conversion rate of 83.3%.
That far outpaced the Wildcats (5-7, 1-3 Big 12), who shot only nine free throws; they did make all nine, however.
“They got to the hoop on us several times, but ours seemed to lead to fouls, and we’ve just got to be able to move our feet better, play one-on-one defense and hopefully correct that a little bit,” Weber said. “A couple plays where we don’t foul, we play a little better help defense, get a couple shutouts, it could be a big difference in the game.”
From the jump, it appeared K-State might commit the same mistake it often has in recent games in Lubbock: spotting the hosts a sizable lead.
The Red Raiders (9-3, 2-2) then came out and scored the first four points of the contest, and six of the first eight. But the Wildcats stormed back to edge ahead 11-10 at the under-12 timeout. K-State extended its advantage to 17-10 — its largest lead of the game — before it stalled.
The Red Raiders capitalized, going on a 15-2 run to retake the lead, 25-19.
The Wildcats responded with a 10-3 run of their own — thanks to 3-pointers from McGuirl and Nijel Pack as well as a jumper from Miguel — to go back on top, 29-28, with 1:51 left in the half.
The game remained in single digits in the early portion of the second half.
Then, at the 14:26 mark, officials assessed Miguel a technical after he scored on a putback.
“He taunted, talked to their people, from what I understand,” Weber said. “He made a layup and then talked in their face or whatever, I guess. That’s what we were told. Maybe you could see it better on TV. I don’t know.”
Texas Tech’s Terrence Shannon made both free throws following Miguel’s technical, extending its lead to 10, 51-41. The Red Raiders ran off seven more points to give them their largest advantage of the game, 58-41, with 11:56 remaining.
But K-State fought back, trimming the deficit to seven (65-58), following a putback from Lewis with 6:10 to go.
Like Miguel, however, Lewis celebrated too much.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed in the technicals,” Weber said. “Our guys have to be more mature. They’re freshmen. It’s habits they’ve had. We have talked about it in practice. Obviously, they made mistakes, and they learned from them. Now you can’t have it again.”
Shannon made two more free throws following Lewis’ technical, pushing the Red Raiders’ lead back to nine, 67-58.
K-State only got within seven points of the hosts one more time. That came with 40 seconds remaining, when the Wildcats made it 78-71 on a 3-pointer from McGuirl. By then, it was too late to avoid their second loss in as many games.
The setback spoiled solid efforts from Pack and Miguel, who paced K-State with 17 points apiece. Pack kept the Wildcats afloat in the opening 20 minutes, pouring in 15 points.
He just couldn’t keep it up after halftime.
“It’s a long game. Being a 40-minute game, we know they’re going to make runs and we know we’re going to make runs,” he said. “We know we made improvement. The last few games, we always came out kind of sluggish. The (other) team usually jumps out on us, so it was a good thing for us to be able to jump out on (the opponent) today. It shows that we’re improving.”
That’s of little solace to Weber, though. He spoke with Texas Tech coach Chris Beard on Monday, and the two discussed how the Big 12 once again is a meat grinder of a league.
Now, K-State turns its attention to Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State. All the Cowboys did was beat the Red Raiders — in Lubbock — in overtime last weekend.
“I don’t know if the league is as good as it’s ever been, but it’s really, really hard,” Weber said. “So now you’ve got Oklahoma State, who beat (Texas Tech), who had West Virginia by 19, and you’re going to have to have the maturity to come back and keep getting better and improve. That’s all I can ask for our young guys.”