Tonight's Lotto Numbers:
20. 13. 30. 2. 50. And 5. Remember those for later.
K-State hosted the undefeated and Top 5 Baylor Bears on Tuesday evening in Bramlage Coliseum, looking to knock off their second straight undefeated foe, pick up their second Big 12 win of the season, and most impressively, take down back-to-back Top 5 opponents for the first time in program history.
Expectations were all over the board leading up to the game. No one really knew whether the Wildcats would come out and play well, or experience a possible hangover after the big home win versus Mizzou just three days prior. As for Baylor - were they overhyped? Were they overachieving? Had they really been tested yet?
K-State came out and played very well right out of the gate, eventually working up to a double-digit lead in the first half, playing suffocating defense and slicing up the Baylor zone defense with the efficiency of a surgeon. Jamar came out with enthusiasm, making tons of hustle plays and being a huge influence against the length and athleticism of the Bears. Rodney kept up his aggressive ways from the Mizzou game, slicing into the zone and darting into the open spots, hitting runners and jumpers all over the floor. JO was even making his presence known, crashing the glass with regularity as well as stepping out to 15 feet for jumpers. Everything was clicking.
Suddenly, it just went away. Baylor goes to a man-to-man defense - a defense we've played against all season - and we look like we don't know what we're doing. Turnover, dunk. Turnover, dunk. Turnover, two passes, three pointer. Just like that, in the span of 120 seconds, we've lost all ground we've gained over the last 6 minutes. And so it begins again. We play well for the next several minutes, just to lose it in 90 seconds. It was absolutely maddening, to see our guys play so hard and so well for a good stretch, and completely throw it away due to a lack of focus. This rollercoaster was a common pattern throughout the game, in which we lead by 10 in the first half and as many as 7 in the second, just to watch it evaporate in seemingly no time at all.
Back to those numbers above...
20. K-State committed 20 turnovers. Baylor is very efficient at creating points off of turnovers. The bulk of Baylor's points actually came from turnovers, not from half-court offense. To a certain extent, we shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly. Baylor scored 30 points off these 20 turnovers - and if we have to pin this loss on one thing, it's the turnovers.
13. Baylor stole the ball 13 times. Thirteen. So out of the 20 turnovers we committed, 13 were live-ball situations. Throwing the ball out of bounds kills the ball, so your defense can get back and set up, and the likelihood of converting to points is much lower. A steal - especially when half of those steals were above the top of the key - creates an immediate change in direction, and results in layups, dunks, and fouls on the other end within seconds. If you can't give up the ball 20 times, you certainly can't give up 13 steals. It makes scoring those 30 points (above) waaaaaay too easy.
30. Despite the horrendous ball control we exhibited, Rodney did absolutely everything he could to keep us in the game. Rod went for a career high 30 points, on 10-14 shooting, 2-3 3PFG, and 8-8 FT. The guy was a legit star on the floor; no one could guard every weapon he had in his arsenal.
2. K-State also did what I would consider a very solid job on the glass, outrebounding Baylor by 2 (28-26). In a game where both teams shot the ball very well, you won't see many rebounds. With Baylor's height and jumping ability, making sure we're keeping pace at the least on the glass is a necessity.
50. K-State shot 50% from the floor for the game, including 36% 3PFG. Factor in the nearly 80% FT shooting we put up, it's almost incredible to think that we ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Until you go back up to that number 20 above.
5. Baylor had five players with four fouls each with three minutes to go. None fouled out. The players? The five best players on their roster: Perry Jones III, Qunicy Miller, Qunicy Acy, A.J. Walton, and Pierre Jackson.
This personally was a gutwrenching loss to watch, because it was right there. And to know we had a chance, and we couldn't even get a final shot off because of - you guessed it - a turnover, was just disappointing in the very sense of the word. It wasn't as emotional a loss as the debacle that took place in Lawrence, but this was not only a winnable game - we should have won comfortably.
That being said, Baylor deserves a little credit. We'd all love to feel like Martavious, Will and Angel should have an inability to turn the ball over, they should never get the ball stolen, make the smart pass, and not make mistakes. But reality is that while none of our ball-handling guards had a stellar game, Baylor's entire defense put an enormous amount of pressure - arguably more than they've seen this year in the backcourt. That pressure created a lot of the turnovers we committed. Furthermore, they had a tremendous amount of discipline to play the final three minutes and keep anyone from fouling out. Baylor is a very good team - to come in and win at the OoD, you have to be. My personal impression is that they are for real, and the only thing that will hold them back from running the table in the Big 12 this year is coaching and discipline.
Good things to take away:
- When we're good, we're very good. Some might disagree, but Baylor is, comparatively speaking to all the other teams I've seen play on TV this year, a legitimate Top 5 basketball team. And when we had things clicking, we were dominating this Bear squad. We played like absolute crap for a good chunk of this game, and were still right there in the end.
- Rodney McGruder is finally firing on all cylinders. Remember that scoring threat we were supposed to have this year? The guy that could pop the 3 as well as take the ball to the bucket? Yeah, he's finally showing up. Rod, over the last couple games, has brought the full monty to the floor - threes, mid-range jumpers, driving runners, layups, and dunks. He's scoring in every way imaginable, which means he's becoming impossibly difficult to guard.
- Unselfishness. HCFM actually said the exact opposite in post-game presser - that our guys played selfishly. Here's my take: looking at the game as a whole, we had 17 assists on 25 made baskets. That's really not bad. The selfishness, I think, came from our guards pounding the ball into the hardwood too much instead of moving it around. But 17 AST on 25 FG? That's a positive.
Things to improve on:
- Focus. As if you didn't see this one coming. We lost this game essentially due to a lack of focus. If we had been able to maintain our poise, our composure, our intensity, and our execution for 40 minutes, we would have cruised. I know our guys know how to handle pressure - they have to deal with it every day in practice. We did a really poor job of showing it.
- Possession. You can't beat a team like Baylor - or any good team, for that matter - if you don't keep a hold of the ball. For whatever reason - pressure, focus, poise, laziness - we cannot afford to turn the ball over more than our opponents.
- Execution. I don't sit in the timeout huddles, so I'm not going to pretend to know what changes and adjustments HCFM was wanting our guys to make against the man-to-man of Baylor, if any. But I do know this - we didn't execute anything against it, which was the other major source of the turnovers we committed. We had figured out how to execute our man offense pretty well, so I was very surprised to see our guys destroy a zone, then turn around and brainfart against the man.
Individual Player Analysis:
- Martavious Irving: B. Played pretty darned good defense against a very quick backcourt of AJ Walton and Pierre Jackson, and contributed 6 PTS (3-6 FG), 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO. An OK, but not exemplary effort. Certainly serviceable enough to contribute to a win.
- Will Spradling: C-. Will's worst game of the season, in my opinion. Gave too much room to Baylor's Brady Heslip early in the game, coughing up two threes. Simply isn't quick enough to stay with any of the other Baylor guards. Only hit one FG - albeit a very important 3 late in the game - but couldn't find any sort of range. Found 4 AST, but also committed 4 TO, two leading to dunks on the other end. Effort wasn't in question - it was just a tough night for him.
- Rodney McGruder: A. Career night in the books as mentioned earlier, with 30 points. Also was the team's leading rebounder with 6 REB, 3 AST to 1 TO, and picked up 1 STL. We lost this game in spite of his efforts...a tragedy.
- Jamar Samuels: B. 7 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL. No stellar numbers, but a very, very solid game. Jamar seems to have matured quite a bit - the guy is carrying a good attitude, and appears to me to be serving as the team's leader. My only complaint is his desire to draw the contact under the bucket - I'd be much happier if he'd concentrate on making the bucket first, and if he gets hit, he gets hit. Overall, good things typically happen when he's on the floor.
- Jordan Henriquez: A. 12 PTS, 4 REB in 27 minutes. 5-9 from the floor, and 2-3 FT. Scored on two monster alley-oop dunks simply by crashing the rim, and was willing to step out and hit the jumper from the elbow. Also came up with 1 BLK and 2 AST, so he was playing as solid of back-line defense as could be expected, and not butchering his touches.
- Shane Southwell: C-. Largely ineffective, only saw the floor for 9 minutes. Was very mistake prone, chucking 3 TOs in that short period. Was responsible for one of the play-of-the-game moments with an alley-oop pass to JO, but was not nearly aggressive enough on offense (only one shot, missed), and played sloppy defense with two fouls. Paradox had some good, but was more bad than good on this particular evening.
- Angel Rodriguez: C. Not to be entirely outdone by Shane, Angel matched his TO per minute rate, logging 4 TOs in 12 minutes. Did score 7 PTS with two threes, but similar to Shane, just had more bad than good tonight. If I had to point a finger at a guy that was playing selfishly - I'd honestly have to point it at Angel. Lots of pounding the ball into the floor, some forced shots, and some questionable defense.
- Thomas Gipson: B. Played 22 minutes and actually did a pretty darned good job on both ends of the floor, given the fact that he was out-athleticized as soon as he stepped on the floor. The Big Gip needs to just keep banking these games as experience, and keep working on things. He did have some moments, including an excellent left-hook shot fake to power-dribble layup (which he was erroneously called for a travel on) that tells me he's working hard in practice, and it's just a matter of time before these things become second nature for him. 4 PTS, 2 REB against that frontline isn't unexpected, and as he gets a better understanding of how to use his girth to his advantage, his numbers will improve in these games.
- Jeremy Jones: B. 2 PTS, 1 AST in 4 minutes. Good to see a Microwave sighting again, was a little worried about the lack of floor time against Mizzou. I'm a little disappointed we didn't see JJ more; with the TO troubles our other guards were having, and considering his quickness versus Will's on both ends of the floor, I don't think it could've hurt to at least try him out.
An interesting note: I believe the 9 deep we went this game represents the least we've gone into our bench this season. Hmmm.....don't quite know what to think of that.