Both of the 3-pointers Oklahoma State hit against Kansas State Tuesday night took on the feel of backbreakers. Both came in desperation situations, the Cowboys just trying to beat the shot clock. One banked in.
“He even called it,” K-State guard Mike McGuirl said.
Still, McGuirl said Oklahoma State could have those. K-State played great defense on those possessions. The Wildcats would live.
Only problem for K-State: It didn’t defend Oklahoma State much better in the second half, at the beginning of the shot clock or at the end of it.
That’s a huge reason why the Wildcats dropped a 64-59 decision, losing their fourth straight game and sixth in their last seven tries.
Oklahoma State shot 81% from the field in the second half.
“I don’t think we were tough enough on defense,” McGuirl said. “I think we were getting bullied a little bit inside. They kept cutting, they kept getting in there, making little plays, making little layups. They were just living in the paint, really.”
The more the Wildcats lose the less surprising it becomes, especially considering how similarly they tend to do so: Start slow, rally midway, fade late. That pattern surfaced in each of K-State’s previous three losses.
The fact that the Wildcats’ defense cost them dearly against the Cowboys reveals a new wrinkle that has seldom emerged this season.
For one, Oklahoma State shot 51% from the field. That’s only the second time a conference opponent has eclipsed the 50% mark against K-State this year. The Cowboys’ precise percentage came despite going just 2-for-8 from deep.
Yet that’s because they didn’t need to. Oklahoma State scored almost half its points in the paint — 30, to be exact — and forward Yor Anei shot a spotless 6-for-6 en route to 14 points, just his third double-digit scoring outing in conference play.
Then there are Oklahoma State’s second-half numbers. They shot 81% overall, as mentioned above, connecting on 13 of 16 shots. One was a 3 from Lindy Waters. That one also came at the end of the shot clock.
The rest came far easier.
Jonathan Laurent got K-State forwards in the air and converted layups.
Thomas Dziagwa hit an off-balance mid-range jumper. Waters did the same minutes later.
Throw in a couple uncontested layups from Cameron McGriff and Keylan Boone and it really starts to become clear how easy Oklahoma State had it in the second half.
To be sure: Oklahoma State only took 16 shots in the second half. K-State took 28, which is far more ordinary.
But the tricky part is that the Cowboys shot so few field goals because they didn’t need many more. They made 10 of 15 second-half free throws. Those sealed the deal.
“We attacked. We didn’t settle,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boyton said. “Even the last possession, close to the end of the second half, when Lindy makes the 3 — it was a perfect possession for us in a lot of ways.
“As a coach, a lot of people just watch whether the shot goes in or not and they judge whether it’s good offense. We don’t really think of it that way. That possession, we needed to use some clock. We got the ball in the hands of a guy who made a good decision, and as the clock expires, we got it to a three-possession game.”
This is relatively new territory for a K-State team that prides itself on defense. The Wildcats haven’t produced the kind of defense they became known for in years past — they now rank sixth in the Big 12 in scoring defense and 91st nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defense ratings — but on the offense-defense balance beam, Bruce Weber’s K-State teams have always leaned toward the latter.
That reputation is taking a hit this year. Doesn’t take much film review of K-State’s loss to Oklahoma State to see why.
Even so, it’s reasonable to expect the Wildcats to rebound on Saturday, when they’ll visit TCU. The Frogs haven’t exceeded 60 points in any of their last four games.
Then again, for K-State, this two-game stretch figured to feature two winnable games. Two pick-me-up contests that could serve as confidence boosts.
The Wildcats only have one more before embarking on a far more challenging stretch of schedule.
Could sure use a staunch defense moving forward.
“We gave them too many easy ones,” McGuirl said, “which we shouldn’t have allowed.”