Since last we met on this subject, K-State dropped a road game to Texas A&M and uglied its way to a Big Monday win over Baylor. While the Texas A&M game essentially followed the script of previous outings this year, it was a little more tolerable because, unlike the Oklahoma State and Missouri games, it never appeared that the players had given up on the outcome. Meanwhile, the Monday win over Baylor was a game in which the Bears simply refused to be out-dumbed.
In College Station, the Cats followed their script in losses almost word-for-word. Turnovers more than doubled assists, and 20 shots from three-point range were deemed necessary, despite the fact that only five of them connected. Curtis Kelly was essentially unstoppable, except at the free throw line, but he only got eight field-goal attempts on the day. The offense was stagnant, as K-State attempted only 19 free throws on the day, compared to 37 for the Aggies. And if all that wasn't bad enough, Texas A&M outrebounded K-State, 39-30.
While the stats are marginally better for the Baylor game, you'd never think that they tell the story of a winning team. But as mentioned previously, Baylor simply refuses to play up to its potential this year. For a team that has at least two, and possibly as many as four future NBA players, the Bears are a dumpster fire that makes K-State's struggles look merely bad, rather than catastrophic. K-State still had more turnovers than assists, made only one out of every three shots they took from long range, and shot 36.5 percent overall from the field. The saving grace was rebounding and good free throw shooting (!).
Like last week, I'll take a quick look at a couple of the season's bigger issues after the jump.
Against A&M, the Cats once again failed to protect a second-half lead. A 37-33 lead four minutes into the second half became a 44-37 deficit only four minutes later. The Cats would fight back to a tie at the five-minute mark, but the Aggies went on a 16-8 run to close out the contest. Once again, when the going got tough late, nobody could knock down important shots for K-State. In fact, the Cats made only two field goals in the last five minutes, and those were three-pointers by Will Spradling with a minute left, and Pullen's meaningless three with 12 seconds to go. Two turnovers in the last five minutes didn't help matters, either.
A debate has arisen among K-State fans regarding Jacob Pullen's play. Jake attempted 19 and 13 shots against Texas A&M and Baylor respectively. Considering that he only made 11 of those 32 attempts, some believe he's shooting too much. I definitely agree that Pullen's decision making needs to improve, as reckless drives to the hoop and general carelessness with the ball have led to most of his turnovers. But if you want him to take fewer shots, you have to consider the alternatives. If Pullen doesn't take those shots, someone else has to take them.
Of the players playing regular minutes right now who have more than 80 field-goal attempts only Rodney McGruder and Kelly have a better field-goal percentage on the year. Jamar Samuels and Spradling have essentially the same FG percentage as Pullen. Kelly definitely needs more shot attempts; the ability of this team to completely forget about Kelly for stretches of time is baffling. I don't see a huge advantage in Samuels attempting more shots, because he only makes them at about the same rate as Jake and is much less likely to make a free throw if fouled (76 percent to 61 percent). On top of that, McGruder has endured a slump lately, and may be playing hurt. I'm not a great basketball player by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm the best player on my lawyer's league team, so it makes sense for me to take the most shots, because I'm more likely to make them. It's sort of the same thing with Pullen. He's much better at creating his own shot than any of the other guards, and he's a serviceable shooter from deep. I wouldn't mind seeing a few of his three-point attempts going to McGruder and Spradling, but I don't think we need to see a significant reduction in Jake's shot attempts.
As we all know, a visit to Lawrence awaits on Saturday. I fully expect to see the Cats get blasted , and I'm sorry that I can't be more optimistic than that. Yes, I realize that KU hasn't played an especially difficult schedule, and that they got beat at home by the best team they've played, and they've snuck out a bunch of close wins against mediocre teams, and that they are unable to play well for sustained stretches (the Baylor game excepted), and they've been in Washington, D.C., since Wednesday for Lisa Robinson's funeral, and blah blah blah. I get all that.
The problem is that K-State has problems that eclipse any issues facing KU, we're playing in Lawrence, at night, and we always get KU's A-game. I don't see that ending well. Maybe Pullen won't try to do too much and won't drive through two defenders and chuck a bunch of deep shots that miss, and maybe Spradling won't look like the deer in the headlights that he was in Columbia, and maybe Kelly won't pout, and maybe Samuels will be able to ignore all the Morris twins' trash talk and concentrate on playing basketball, and maybe the whole team will be able to ignore all the "CBI! CBI!" chants from the KU students.
But are you willing to bet on any of that happening, let alone all of it? Yeah, that's what I thought.