Last night's game with Savannah State was the Tale of Two Halves, to borrow and modify a title from Dickens.
If you want to read about all the amazing records the Wildcats set, check out the newspapers. The KC Star, Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle all have thoroughly documented K-State's second-half defensive prowess last night.
Don't get me wrong, the numbers are impressive. The Cats held Savannah State to four points in the second half, three on a three-pointer with less than six minutes to play, and one on a free throw. For its part, K-State scored 48 points to finish with 85, the seventh time the Cats have scored more than 80 points in a game this year.
Michael Beasley decided one game without a double-double was enough, picking up 25 points and 10 rebounds. Bill Walker added 12 points and 8 rebounds despite some very lazy play (more on that later), and Dominique Sutton added 12 points (on 5-of-5 shooting) and had three steals.
What I liked...
I like the fact that Sutton likes to play defense and realizes it's not his role to take a shot more than two feet away from the basket. There's a reason he was 5-of-5 last night: every shot was either a layup or a dunk.
The three-point shooting was better in two ways. First, we only attempted 16 from beyond the arc. Second, we made 43.8 percent of the attempts we did take. That is the kind of commitment to getting the ball inside and to the rim that we need to continue to see. Fred Brown knocked down all three of the bombs he attempted, and if he keeps that kind of shooting up, he may be the guy who can knock opponents out of the 2-3 zones they will want to play against us.
Obviously the (second-half) defensive effort was superb, as previously mentioned. For more metrics of just how impressive it was, our adjusted defensive efficiency ranking (Pomeroy) improved from 22nd before the game to eighth after the game.
Some props to Luis Colon for his effort last night. The big man scored five points in the second half, including a difficult layup (plus the foul shot), and didn't mug anybody.
What I Didn't Like...
Pretty much the whole first half. The K-State AD Web site doesn't have the play-by-play up yet, and I can't get the live stats to show me what I want, so I can't back any of this up with statistical analysis. But I can say we played lazy, unfocused, careless basketball for a large part of the first half. The fact that we led, 37-21, at halftime is largely a testament to how much more talented that SSU we are.
I saw way too many stupid passes in the first half. It was similar to the problems we had against Xavier, coming out and thinking we could just run around and throw the ball wherever we wanted. As mentioned, I don't have the stats, but I would be willing to be the bulk of our 15 turnovers came in the first 20 minutes. The only real difference was, SSU doesn't have the players to make us pay like Xavier did.
I saw lazy, horrible defensive effort in the first half. Bill Walker had better learn how to get into a defensive stance and get in somebody's face before Saturday's trip to Norman, Okla. He stands up on defense way too often, relying on his athletic ability to get him back into position or make a block shot on a defender who has beaten him. He can get away with that against SSU. He won't get away with it against pretty much anybody in the Big 12.
It seems strange to knock the defensive effort in a game where the Cats set records for defending the other team. But if you really watched the game, you know what I'm talking about. The defensive effort for at least the first 10 or 15 minutes was atrocious. If this team wants to play man-to-man, it must show more hustle and effort out there. Far too many times in the first half, we saw no help on screens and no effort to get through screens.
The lack of first-half effort also showed up in the rebounding department. Again, I don't have the stats right now, but the fact that SSU had 15 offensive rebounds for the night boggles my mind.
Don't get me wrong. I love this team, and the second half last night showed how well these guys can play when they are motivated and focused. I am holding out hope that this team can turn the effort on and off like that, and now that conference play is upon us, they will realize that effort we saw in the second half must be shown every night.
I think this comment from Frank Martin in the TCJ article is telling:
"We were just sloppy," Martin said of the first half. "(Assistant coach) Brad Underwood earned his check at halftime. He was unbelievable in relaying our message to the players. He was the one in charge of preparing our team to play today, and he made sure we did a little better in the second half."
It was clear our players knew from the opening tip they could merely show up and blow SSU out. I like the fact that the coaches got in their ear at halftime and made them realize that type of effort isn't nearly enough. But the mere fact that they had to do that is a problem. We never saw a lack of effort last year when that other guy was our coach. We really need to see these players take pride in their defense and getting up in somebody's shorts and making them uncomfortable all night long.
Five days until OU. With non-conference play almost finished, here is the basic RPI information for each team in the Big 12:
Team: (Pomeroy, RealTime, Sagarin)
Baylor: (70, 70, 34)
Colorado: (175, 176, 166)
Iowa State: (132, 130, 145)
K-State: (85, 91, 60)
KU: (9, 9, 2)
Mizzou: (104, 104, 66)
Nebraska: (131, 132, 58)
Oklahoma: (36, 36, 25)
Oklahoma State: (136, 136, 106)
Texas: (12, 12, 10)
Texas A&M: (22, 22, 15)
Texas Tech: (72, 72, 74)
Sagarin ranks the Big 12 as the second-best conference, while Pomeroy and RealTime have it at fourth.