It was *thisclose*.
No moral victories on this afternoon, though. No coulda, shoulda, wouldas. Kansas State (3-2) couldn't quite pull the upset on the #3 (AP) Arizona Wildcats, dropping a heartbreaker 72-68 in their second round game of the 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Our Cats put up a yeoman's effort in jumping out to an early 5-point lead, relenquishing to go down one at the half. Down by as many as 8 in the second half, K-State clawed their way back to two with possession, and proceeded to go through four empty possessions down the stretch, and just couldn't...quite...close it out. I kinda sorta figured a game in the 60s or 70s would end up like this, though.
Of note: we shot 58% from three (above average), 71% from the FT line (above average), and committed only 11 turnovers (below average). Watching in realtime, if that Arizona squad truly is the #3 team in the country right now, the Big 12 is going to be a tough, tough league this year.
Size Doesn't Matter:
Similar to Purdue, Arizona was able to throw two different true seven-footers at us, and while Kaleb Tarczewski did finish with 18 pts, the combination of 6-7 Thomas Gipson, 6-5 Nino Williams, 6-11 Stephen Hurt, and 6-7 Malek Harris were at least able to keep pace in the paint with 24 points of their own, and held Tarczewski to 3 rebounds total.
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller had this to say:
"I'll also tell you this; Thomas Gipson is very good as well. I mean, he's a load...One of the keys to our victory tonight was his (Tarczewski) really good defense on 42."
Ultimately (we're not getting into officiating here), K-State couldn't close it out because of a handful of untimely empty possessions. Just looking at the last 2:36 of regulation, where Foster cuts the score to 66-64 Arizona with a deep three, here is the rundown of the K-State possessions:
2:14 Nino Williams missed jumper. [good look]
1:08 Marcus Foster turnover. [traveling]
0:29 Nino Williams missed jumper. [good look]
0:23 Two Arizona free throws. [Arizona goes up 4]
0:22 Wesley Iwundu turnover. [bad pass]
0:18 One Arizona free throw. [Arizona goes up 5]
0:13 Marcus Foster made three point jumper. [Arizona up 2, again]
So, the frustrating part wasn't so much the missed jumpers by Nino, as much as the turnover by Iwundu under the Arizona bucket off a freakin' called time out. Inexcusable. We HAVE to get those kind of things cleaned up.
Foster - Hawaiian for "Player":
Marcus came up big in big spots tonight, I believe earning ESPN's "Player Of The Game" status in the losing effort. Foster put up 23 points on 7-14 from the floor (6-9 3pfg), and 3-4 from the line. Foster was the class of the game scoring the basketball, though the combined efforts of Tarczewski, Stanley Johnson (14 pts, 7 reb), Brandon Ashley (10 pts, 5 reb), and Gabe York (15 pts) was a little too much for #EMAW to bear.
Sean Miller on Foster:
"Respect isn't a good enough word to describe how we categorize him as a player...Obviously, one heck of a player, and he proved that tonight."
We'll be playing the loser of the #15 San Diego State vs. Pittsburgh game being played immediately after our game. At half, Pitt down to SDSU 39-25. Next contest will be at 2:30 p.m. local, 6:30 p.m. in Manhattan, on ESPN.