Yeesh. Let's hope this team finds its mojo again, and in a hurry.
K-State traveled to the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman to take on an Oklahoma team that ran off a pretty impressive number of victories in the non-conference schedule, but was dealt a dose of reality with an 0-3 start to the Big 12 slate.
At least, I think they did. They sure as heck weren't all there when the game started.
Let's just say this - playing on the road is hard. Playing conference road games is even more difficult. Let's try to explain that simply by recapping Saturday's notable outcomes:
- #2 Kentucky wins at Tennessee in the final seconds
- #3 UNC gets absolutely undressed at Florida State
- #7 Michigan State goes down at Northwestern
- #12 UNLV loses at #22 San Diego State
- #13 Michigan loses at Iowa
- #18 Kansas State drops one at Oklahoma
Whether OU is that much better from previous seasons is undeniable. Seeing how our team is capable of playing, though...this loss is completely inexcusable. It reduces down to this simple fact: we had a complete lack of effort, desire, and execution on defense. My rec league team would have hung 60 on the board yesterday afternoon.
We knew before tipoff that OU's Steven Pledger could create problems. He is a good scorer, and since he typically lines up as a guard, our backcourt was going to have a difficult time with him because of his size. Considering their team as a whole, though, I thought this could possibly turn into another game like Missouri - one where they're rather undersized in the middle, and we'd just own the painted area on both ends of the floor.
Not so much. Pledger still got his, but was held to 5-13 shooting for 18 points. Instead, we just simply forgot that there are four other people on the floor that have to be guarded, as well. Specifically, their bigs - who aren't as big as what we can put out there - had a field day. I mean, we made them look like NBA material at times. Romero Osby goes for 18 points on 6-8 FG, and Andrew Fitzgerald goes for 21 on 9-10 FG. This game was lost because we didn't have the effort necessary to stop Romero Osby in the paint, and we were too lethargic to stop Fitzgerald from banging in 14-foot jumper after jumper. Oklahoma did a good job of ball movement against us. OU shot 55% from the floor for the game...but I'll get into that a little later.
For the record, I have no problem with the aggressive overplaying that is typical of a HCFM man defense. It causes chaos, it causes confusion, and usually creates turnovers through bad passes, steals, forced shots, and drawn charges. If I get around to it, I may get into a dissertation in another FanPost as to why this works for us, why the zone doesn't work for us, and a conservative "just stay in front" man defense would cause us to lose games more often than we do. Anyways, if the team we're playing moves the ball well, and if we're tired, tight, or just don't have it that day, we're going to get our asses kicked, without exceptions. They just got us out of position, and we didn't have the effort to keep that from happening. That's how so many open jumpers happened, and that's how post scoring was so easy.
OU handled us from the tip. When we finally showed up with 8 minutes left in the game, it was too late. We finally started showing some aggressiveness combined with some scoring, and chipped away at the lead, eventually getting it down to 6 late in the game. Some stuck with the team, some gave up early on them - but honestly, it would have been a miraculous turnaround for K-State to actually fight back to win. Teams can often recover from prolonged poor shooting, they can't recover from prolonged substandard defensive effort.
Good Things To Take Away:
- Offensive Rebounding effort: If there's one thing that our team actually did make an effort at, it was crashing the offensive glass. We outrebounded the #1 rebounding team in the league (yes, its OU, not us) by 15, 39-24. That spread was entirely due to grabbing offensive boards, where we held a 21-6 advantage. Recognizing that shots aren't falling, and trying to create second-chance opportunities was good to see.
- We kept playing: Things certainly did not go our way in the first half, at any time. There was a 5-minute chunk in the second half - 15:00 to 10:00 - where our body language was terrible. OU continued to pull away, we continued to do pretty much nothing right, and the guys got dejected. But the guys whipped it back into shape - as much as they could have - and at least made OU play the rest of the game. We never really mailed it in completely, when we certainly could have.
- Passing to find good looks: We finished the game with 16 AST on 25 FG. More than half our buckets came from direct ball movement, which is a promising thing to see. Bear in mind that assists are not credited if the shot isn't made, so a wide open jumper that missed doesn't count, and a fouled shooter - even if he makes the free throws - has to make the bucket (an "and-one") for the assist to be credited.
Things to Improve On:
- Defensive intensity: Our intensity wasn't there. Our commitment wasn't there. Our desire wasn't there. Our hustle wasn't there. I don't know if these guys got "Franked" earlier in the week (a legitimate possibility), or if they just didn't have their heads screwed on straight, but we sucked on the defensive end of the floor.
- Interior play: Our bigs were terrible, and I mean terrible. Some examples: Nino Williams played 15 minutes at the 4, and was the best player we had in the paint. He's 6'-5"; I'm taller than he is. Jamar couldn't guard a geriatric using a walker in the paint for most of the night, and was pretty touchy-feely (4 fouls) when he tried. Our tallest regular player had exactly ZERO rebounds. This game was lost in large part due to the complete stinker the bigs put out there.
- Taking care of the ball: For the second game in a row, live-ball turnovers were a HUGE problem again. We lost the TO battle 18-13, but more worrisome is the fact that of our 18 TOs, 12 were steals. I got into the difference between a live-ball TO and a dead-ball TO last post-game, but let's just say dead-ball TOs create chances for buckets, live-ball TOs directly lead to points. Spotting the other team 12 or more easy points is not a good game plan.
Individual Player Analysis:
- Martavious Irving: D. Until I hear that he was hurt or something, the guy played like crap. Couldn't guard anyone, registered 0 PTS (missed 3 FG), 1 REB, 1 STL, 1 TO in 15 minutes. Easily his worst game of the season, from a guy that's been pretty steady. Disappointing.
- Will Spradling: C-. Was put in an impossible situation trying to guard Steven Pledger, but managed to coax him into 5-13 shooting...and to be fair, while others on the floor were finding wide open shots everywhere, Will was on Pledger decently. My biggest complaints with Will's game today were TOs (4), and the sheer quantity of missed shots (3-12 3PFG). Finished with 11 PTS, but needed 15 shots...terrible efficiency. Will spent the first 30 minutes of the game building a new expansion for the Lloyd Noble Center with all his bricks. Who knows, maybe we actually loaded them up and brought them back to campus for the new West Stadium expansion. He's gotta start taking care of the ball, immediately. It's quite clear that he's bothered by pressure, and has no left hand against a good defender. I also think Will crossed the fine line between shooting out of a slump, and just not being a good option on offense for this game. Also managed to find 4 AST in his 32 minutes.
- Rodney McGruder: B+. Rodney had a double-double, in spite of not being able to buy a bucket early in the game. Finished with 19 PTS on 16 shots, 10 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, and 'only' 2 TO in 39 minutes. Similar to the Baylor game, he did everything he could for us to win. Maybe everyone else will hold up their end of the bargain one of these days. Only reason this wasn't an 'A' game is the 6-16 shooting.
- Jamar Samuels: C-. 9 PTS and 11 REB in 29 minutes, spent a lot of time in the game in foul trouble. However, due to complete ineffectiveness by our other bigs, he had to spend a lot of time on the floor in foul trouble as well, which led to some pathetic defense on the block. Romero Osby had his way with Jamar in the second half. Jamar needs to be stronger with the ball and more deliberate in his attack of the basket. He lost the ball three times in the lane simply because he doesn't hang onto it tight enough. He also misses a number of shots because he just tries to get the ball on the rim, rather than make a concentrated effort to make the basket.
- Jordan Henriquez: D-. Might as well have not even dressed. He's 7 feet tall, and had a bagel in the rebound stat line. Managed to turn the ball over 3 times in his 8 minutes on the floor, though. C'mon, man.
- Shane Southwell: B-. Let me make something clear: When I say Shane could become a scorer, I do not mean a three-point marksman. I have never meant he could become a great outside shooter. The dude is 6'-6", can jump well, and has a smooth, floating driving style to the bucket. He should be scoring 10 points a game off 10-foot jumpers, layups, and FTs. Now that that's out of the way, he had a very Paradox game. Finished with 6 PTS, 2 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, and 1 TO in 30 minutes. Played solid defense for most the game. But chucking threes when you're clearly not a three-point shooter - two on the same possession - gets the downgraded review. To be fair, with Rodney not having a stellar night, and Will building houses, it's not like Shane shooting from the outside on a couple of occasions drastically hurt us.
- Nino Williams: A. Even if he didn't have the stat line to show for it, dude played with heart. Played with enthusiasm. In other words, he and Rodney were the best two we had on the floor. Logged a career high 15 minutes, and managed 12 PTS, 9 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, and only 1 TO. Almost a double-double in only 15 minutes. Tip o' the hat to him, hope he can bring that kind of energy and enthusiasm more often.
- Thomas Gipson: B. Played mostly to spell Jamar when saddled with foul trouble. 3 PTS, 2 AST, 1 REB in 15 minutes. While his playing time has gone down, and his production has dropped severely, I actually think he's learning quite a bit. He's making noticeable strides in both defensive positioning as well as offensive post moves.
- Jeremy Jones: A. I really cannot, for the life of me, figure out why he doesn't play more minutes, especially when Will and Martavious both struggle. 12 PTS on 5-7 FG (including 2-4 3PFG), 2 AST, 2 REB, 1 BLK and zero TOs in only 14 minutes. Honestly, if Nino and JJ would not have put in the effort they did, we woulda been completely blown out.
- Victor Ojeleye: C. Pretty average game for the guy: came in for 3 minutes, grabbed 2 REB, made 2 TOs, and committed a foul. Nothing remarkable to speak of.