That's how old I was when K-State last won against Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
This fact - that the Wildcats have had such a lack of success in Stillwater since 1993 - seemed to keep coming up. And again. And yet again. You couldn't read any sort of preview about this game without that fact being mentioned. Never mind the Pokes were 9-9, 2-3 in Big 12 play. There are two constants in basketball in this conference: 1) It's ALWAYS hard to play on the road, and 2) It's ALWAYS hard to play in Gallagher-Iba.
This trip would be no different. Seeing the various Jekyll-and-Hyde moments our team has, it obviously stood to reason that we should win the game, but we could just as easily get run out of the gym.On paper, this game looked like a no-brainer. We were clearly better, especially given the mass-exodus that has been occurring surrounding the program, with several players leaving during the season, the lack of a real inside threat, and the simple fact that OSU had not performed that well throughout the season so far. But...games aren't played on paper (they're played in those little glass-covered boxes in our living rooms).
Coming into play the Cowboys, we were two men down. F Nino Williams sprained an MCL in practice earlier in the week (sat out the UT win, as well), and C Jordan Henriquez didn't even make the trip. Let's hope Nino gets better - I was a fan of his effort against OU - and JO gets his head right, and in a hurry.
The major keys to this game were going to be making sure OSU guard Keiton Page didn't beat us with his outside shooting, and we flat out didn't let anyone else have a breakout afternoon. We take care of those two items, and not just completely jack this one up from our end, and we should be good for the W.
What we ended up seeing was the Cats playing poorly on offense. Two things stick out in my mind - poor shooting all around, and relatively poor execution on offense. K-State went 36% FG, 21% 3PFG, and 58% FT. That's brick city, baaaaybeee (sorry for the Dickie V there)! K-State also managed 6 AST for the night, on 20 FGM. That's horrendous ball movement, especially when we've recently seen - even in poorly played games - AST on greater than 50% of our FGM. OSU's defense isn't necessarily anything to scoff at, but we've played way tougher this year, and with greater effectiveness.
We also saw a pretty darned good defensive effort by the boys. We held OSU to below their season average of 41% FG (35%, to be exact), and held them to 1-16 from behind the arc; that one made shot being a guarded 25-footer by Page in the waning moments of the game. Factor in 49 REB, including 21 on the offensive glass, and we played decent in the "hustle" side of things.
Turnovers were still a little bit of a concern, but that's a problem that won't be going away any time soon. Our best potential ballhandler is young and likes to throw it away, and no one else is really that spectacular under duress. That being said, our 16 turnovers is a marginal improvement to where we were a couple weeks ago.
Good Things To Take Away:
- Guts. It takes guts, desire, and hustle to win a game when you're practicing masonry. And as many bricks as we were throwing around, to come out of OSU with a road win is a pretty impressive feat.
- Rebounding. When neither team shoots 40% from the floor, there will be lots of opportunities for rebounds. But our day on the glass was pretty darn effective - 49 REB, 21 OREBs. To put that in perspective, OSU only grabbed 27 REB total. We did a good job of finding the shooter, challenging the shot, then going and getting the ball.
- Growth. Seeing young players like Angel and GIP getting the start, and F Adrian Diaz receiving significant playing time, will hopefully pay dividends as we get deeper into the season. All freshmen, and all will be integral parts to this teams success come late February and on.
Things To Improve On:
- Trusting the offense: The guys didn't really have a problem running the offense, per se, but they didn't trust the offense to work if they kept running it. We spent a lot of time floundering at times because the OSU defense did a good job of shutting down the first option available, i.e. Rodney McGruder. Therein lies the problem with Rodney having 30+ point games, a little too much leaning on that crutch.
- FT Shooting: For Pete's sake, guys. Free throws are fundamental. Free throws are the easiest points you can score, outside of wide open layups. I dunno, maybe someone covered the rim in Saran Wrap the first half, but 4-14 from the charity stripe in the first half was downright pitiful, which included 0 FTA for Rodney, and 0-5 from our guards Angel and Will Spradling. To their credit, they did recover, shooting 19-26 (73%) in the second half to go 23-40 for the game.
- Keep Building: I put this in here because it's an improvement issue. It's time for this team to truly take on the HCBS mentality of "getting better every day". No steps backward. We have two wins in a row now, one coming on the road. We have to keep getting better, minimize the mistakes, and string things together from here on out. We're good enough to do it, we just have to do it.
Individual Player Analysis:
- Rodney McGruder: B. He had to come back down out of the stratosphere, right? 14 PTS on 5-13 shooting is none too efficient, with 6 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, and 3 TO. Played good defense, and is our most consistent leader on the floor. Played a team high 35 minutes. 3 TOs is a little troubling.
- Will Spradling: B. Forget about offensive stats/contributions for a moment. Here's the stat you need to know: 4-17, and 1-9. Keiton Page went under 25% FG for the day, and only hit one three, largely due to the defense of Will Spradling. He really did - for Will, anyway - a remarkable job defensively most of the game. Otherwise, he did finish with 8 PTS and 5 REB, going 1-5 from the field and 6-8 from the line. In many cases, for him to play as good of defense as he did on their primary scorer, I'd give him an A regardless of offense. But...0 AST, 3 TO. C'mon man. We need a little bit better performance than that. So I split the difference.
- Angel Rodriguez: A-. I'm going to give it to him. Finished with 14 PTS on not great shooting (3-8 FG, 6-11 FT), but managed 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, and 3 TOs in 22 minutes of game time. Missed several layups on quick dribble-penetration moves that proved no one on the OSU squad could guard him going to the hoop...he could have easily had 20+ today. On-ball defense needs to improve, but help-side defense was pretty good, had great anticipation.
- Jamar Samuels: B+. 12 PTS, 12 REB in 30 minutes. When watching the game, I just felt better when he was in there. Not to mention, he was responsible for the 4 FT makes we did have in the first half. Played pretty good defense in the paint, combined with our other forwards to keep OSU out of the paint offensively most of the game. Only complaint is the 3P shooting...grrr. Dude. You're shooting too many. It's OK to pop one every now and then if defense sags way off. Your 3PA per game has gone up this year - your 3PM has not. Stop it.
- Thomas Gipson: INC. BIG GIP was using and abusing players in the paint when he was in there. Unfortunately, he was the victim of three bad calls; one foul in the first half, his 4th foul he picked up (atrocious - that was good D, GIP), and the technical that was called on him immediately after (that was a very poor job of officiating in that instance). GIP had no reason to be tagged with a T there, regardless of whatever word (presumably the f-bomb) he uttered. That was not directed at any official, player, or other human being other than himself. There was no gratuitous display of emotion (like that Cezar Guerrero character - that guy pissed and moaned every time the whistle blew, whether it was on him or not). Simply put, we didn't get to see GIP play as much as he should have because he was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. /rantover GIP played only 7 minutes and scored 6 PTS, but he made the 7-footer Marek Soucek look downright helpless. This game wouldn't have been nearly so close if he could have played the whole game.
- Martavious Irving: B. Played 29 minutes off the bench, and had 6 PTS, 6 REB, and 2 TOs. But he was as much of a calming factor as you could find during some of our more "inexperienced" lineups, and he calmly stepped up and hit 2 FTs in the second half that seemed to kickstart everyone into making free throws. Tay's defense also was readily apparent, taking on the Keiton Page responsibility when Will Spradling was not in the game. He deserves as much credit as Sprads does for the lockdown.
- Adrian Diaz: B+. Diaz was interesting to watch today. Getting a huge boost in minutes without JO around, Diaz put forth an effort such that it wasn't that great of a let down from JO's absence. 4 PTS, 9 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO in 24 minutes. As long as Diaz keeps working and sticks around the program for four years, I think he's going to become a major player at K-State, and possibly one of the better bigs this program has seen. He's got decent quick for a seven-footer, has a better outside shot than JO, and seems to understand how to move/handle the ball better than JO. If he can just get caught up to game speed, and really get some progress with Scott Greenawalt, I think he can make waves.
- Shane Southwell: C-. The Paradox had a bit of a rough one today. Only played 9 minutes, and recorded 2 AST, 1 TO. Shot a pretty questionable 3 in the first half. I just don't feel like he's playing aggressively enough on either end of the floor, and apparently, HCFM doesn't think so, either. He doesn't seem to be good at all with handling overplay pressure, and seems a step slow on defense. Maybe I'm just seeing things.
- Jeremy Jones: C-. The Microwave was apparently broken today. Recorded exactly zero stats other than a missed three that might have gone over the backboard had it been head-on. 6 minutes spent just trying to give our other guards a breather.
- Victor Ojeleye: B. Guy did exactly what was asked of him. He might be a walk-on, but his name's on the back of his jersey, and it should tell us something that he's going in games ahead of Omari Lawrence and James Watson. Is he an outstanding offensive player? Nope. Is he a lockdown defender? Nope. If he did either, he'd be a starter. But you know what he does do? Vic plays HARD. Vic cares 100% of the time. Vic does what's asked of him. Vic doesn't make lazy mistakes. He's exactly the player that needs to come in and give people a break. Vic isn't good enough to rely on athleticism or skill alone, like our other guys do (i.e. "coast") at times. So he has to bring it, to the bets of his abilities, every time he's on the floor. I will stand up and applaud the guy for that...he's got the mentality that everyone on this team needs to find. Finished with 2 PTS, 4 REB, and ZERO TOs.