Let's give them credit, I guess...
There's a reason they win so many games at home. [Insert shameful officiating comment here.]
K-State traveled to Lawrence to take on the Jayhawks in the conference opener for both teams. At least I think so, because the team I've seen sporting K-State jerseys the last couple weeks was only there for about 5 minutes or so. Subsequently, we started our murderous opening stretch to conference play with a loss, on a year that looked to be the most viable opportunity for a win in Allen Field House in quite some time.
The team actually came out with some energy for the first 90 seconds, and suddenly disappeared. The scrappy defense was about as stout as a wet paper towel. The hustle-led rebounding was entirely AWOL. The recent ability to move the ball and execute on offense apparently wasn't important enough to emphasize. Honestly, I don't know what we did to prepare for this game, but to the common observer, I can't tell you for sure that we did.
Every player came out cold, as evidenced by the team shooting under 30% from the floor for the first half. We weren't getting many very good looks, as possession after possession went by with very little offensive movement. I can count the number of times we ran the offense to both sides of the floor on one hand. Off the cuff, the decision to really try and pound the ball inside to draw fouls on KU's two bigs - Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey - appears to make sense. The problem is that it didn't really work - we kept missing shots, and if you aren't actually drawing the foul when you miss the shot, well, it might as well be a turnover.
I've never seen such a lack of hustle out of a HCFM-coached team as I did in rebounding tonight. No desire. No energy. That's how you get rebounds. The effort isn't in the actual grabbing of the ball - the effort is getting to where you can grab the ball. Early homework. Which we did none of.
The fact the game was as close as it was at half - 35-20 - was a testament to KU's inability to keep possession of the ball. We won the TO battle for the evening - 19-12 - and still lost by 18 points.
Let me get this out of the way, because it honestly deserves to be said. KU's Thomas Robinson is a legitimate NBA prospect. He is powerful, strong, athletic, and can stretch his game out to 18-20 feet. And he was clearly better than any single person we could put on the floor.
Beyond that, I'm convinced we're a better team top-to-bottom. Seeing the way our guys played tonight, I'm not sure they are convinced of it, and THAT'S the reason why we lost.
On the bright side, K-State did fight back for a 5 minute stretch in the second half, cutting the lead to 3 with more than 10:00 to go, with some exceptional defensive effort and some better ball movement. But...
...that leads me into my next little rant. The preparation and coaching by HCFM and his staff tonight was head-scratching at best. I've already said it looked like we didn't prepare...but just as easily, I could see by reaction times - slow cuts offensively, not doing rebounding work, late defensive rotations - that we might have had some horrendously hard practices coming into this game. Either way, it's just not what we needed. Let's go back to that run we put on KU to get the game back to 3...we come out of a KU-called timeout, go out of the man-to-man that had got us to where we were and into a 3-2 zone (which we're not nearly quick enough at), Conner Teahan hits 2 straight 3's, and that's all she wrote. We waved goodbye as KU steadily pulled away the rest of the game. Usually you can pin the team's struggles on lack of executing plans, but there was obviously some failure on HCFM's part tonight, as well. Blame goes all around on this one.
All that being said, let's not get too out of focus here. We're 11-2. Sure, we all want to win against KU. But one game does not a season make. If I remember correctly, we started pretty damn poor to begin last year's conference slate, too. Lots of season left, we just need to pick up, move on, and beat Mizzou at home on Saturday.
Good things to take away:
- Room for improvement. Honestly, that's all I got. We did nothing this game that I could consider net positive. We completely shit the bed so bad over 35 minutes of basketball that it completely overshadows the 5 minutes we played decent. The only reason this game wasn't 30 at the end was because KU's "Top 5 guard in the country" (could you be any more of a complete asinine homer, Dave Armstrong?) Tyshawn Taylor managed to cough the ball up 8 times. Every single facet of the game needs to be improved upon when we play Mizzou on Saturday.
Things to improve upon:
- Everything, but I'll give some specific examples here. Let's start with coherence. This team looked like it honestly did not know what it was doing for the greater part of the game. No movement on offense; rather, no intelligible offense to speak of. No tenacity on defense, continual late or non-existent rotations for driving players. Only two or three examples of ball-hawking, unlike the swarming scrappiness we usually have. I want the team that played the last several games back.
- Rebounding. That was downright atrocious. We came into the game Top 30 in the NCAA in rebounding, and managed to get outrebounded 48-24. Let me say that again: FORTY-FRICKIN-EIGHT TO TWENTY-FOUR. That's hustle. That's desire. That's heart. Yes, I'm questioning our team's heart right now. It needs to be questioned.
- Offensive execution. Inept. Stagnant. Incoherent. How many more adjectives do you need for our offensive prowess tonight? Funny enough, we actually got two more shots up than KU on the evening. But when they're not really good looks (6 AST on 18 made FG), that's a problem with not running the offense. The pinch-post offense we run is VERY effective. But dang it, you gotta run it for it to work. We seriously need to stick our second five out there on defense in practice, and run the freaking offense for an hour straight. Every day.
Individual Player Analysis
- Rodney McGruder: C+. Put up OK stats with 15 PTS, 5 REB, 3 STL, 1 AST and only 1 TO in team high 39 minutes. His looks were mostly pretty open, actually; just couldn't put them down. Took 14 shots for 15 points - terrible efficiency. His off-the-ball effort seemed pretty listless and lazy at times.
- Martavious Irving: B. 7 PTS on 3-5 shooting, and 3 STL. Made some shots when we absolutely could not go another possession without points, and actually played decent on-ball D. However, he did get burned a number of times when the ball came quickly to his man from two or three passes away.
- Will Spradling: C-. Put up lots of numbers (5 PTS, 2 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 4 TO, and a partridge in a pear tree) for having literally no measurable effect on the game whatsoever. He was once a basketball player like the others, until he took an elbow to the head from Tyshawn Taylor (which was clearly a clear-out play - a point of emphasis this year in officiating and should have resulted in a Flagrant 1 called, but since we're in AFH, it was a foul on Sprads). Bonus points for Skyrim reference. 5 PTS on 7 shots is worse than terrible.
- Jamar Samuels: C-. JamSam put up 12 PTS, 5 REB, 1 STL, and 2 BLK in 4-1/2 minutes. Book shows he played for 28, but he was really only present in the game for the first 90 seconds, then 3 minutes of the stretch where we clawed back in the second half. He took 5 3PFG (!) making 2. If we have Jamar launching from 3 at that rate, we better be up big, or we're probably behind. Considerably.
- Thomas Gipson: D. This was the game I was worried about. The Big Gip went scoreless, but did manage to grab 3 REB. Only played 16 minutes, largely due to his obvious ineffectiveness against the play of Thomas Robinson. Too much to ask of a freshman that is an inch taller than me but weighs just short of 3 bills.
- Jordan Henriquez: B-. Was playing one of his better games in the first half (honestly, one of the bright spots on the team), then quickly eroded it in the second. Finished with a bunch of 4s: 4 PTS, 4 TO, 4 REB, 4 Fouls, and 2 BLK. The guy missed about four dunks. Dude, finish. Seriously. Oh, and 0-4 FT. Yahtzee.
- Angel Rodriguez: D. 1 TO, 1 REB, and four missed shots in 10 minutes. Largely ineffective (slow and sloppy) on both ends of the court.
- Nino Williams: B. Honestly - the only guy that looked like he was playing with heart the entire time he was out there. Got the call in the first half - which was a little confusing - but made the most of it with 5 PTS, 4 REB and 1 STL in 12 minutes...all as an undersized 4-man. At least someone looked like they wanted to play tonight.
- Shane Southwell: D-. Didn't mention the Paradox once in the game thread, which tells you all you need to know. Managed 1 BLK and 1 missed FG in 9 minutes. Could be his least productive night of his collegiate career. Anon needs to look that up for me.
- Jeremy Jones and Adrian Diaz both made the floor, but were getting either garbage minutes at the end of the game or were so largely ineffective that no remarkable mention can be made.
No one else saw the floor.
So, with that, I'm on my way to Dallas in the AM to go bowling. Hopefully HBCK, HCBS, and the CATS can go make them pigs squeeeeeeeal. SUEY! Follow my Twitter if you want (@BigE_29er) for minor updates - I promised Pan I'd talk about any plans for BSFS renovations described at the pep rally.
Good night, and big balls.