The Kansas State Wildcats (7-6) dropped their sixth non-conference game of the season, and second at Bramlage Coliseum, with a 50-46 loss to one of the better SEC teams in the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia (8-3) is a decent SEC team, and will probably be fighting for second place in the conference behind Kentucky. This is not an epic loss. But it is damning for this season.
Let's start with the starting lineup. HC Bruce Weber decided to shake some things up - well, at least one thing - by starting Stephen Hurt over senior Thomas Gipson. The other four starters remained the same: Jevon Thomas, Marcus Foster, Justin Edwards, and Nino Williams. Seemed to work OK right out of the chute, as Hurt played decently, and we defended and rebounded pretty well.
Offensively, things went downhill steadily through the first half. Turnover after turnover, missed shot after missed shot. At the half, the Kansas State Wildcats had amassed 12 points. TWELVE. The Wildcats had 42 possessions in the first half, and managed to draw three fouls, attempt 23 shots, and turn the ball over 16 times.
That is bad by any standard, and I truly mean any.
The only reason it was remotely a ballgame is due to some passable defense and decent rebounding through the first 20 minutes.
Second half, and more of the same for the first 8 minutes. Georgia stretched the lead to as many as 15 by the under-12 media timeout, 35-20. Apparently, at that point, Bruce had decided he'd seen enough of not seeing enough. Not sure why it took so long, but whatever.
Thomas Gipson, and to a lesser extent, Nigel Johnson, put the team on their back and willed them back into the game. The fivesome of Gipson, Johnson, Wesley Iwundu, Tre Harris, and Malek Harris clawed their way back by playing solid defense, limiting Georgia to one shot, working together on offense to get the ball inside, crash the glass, and make free throws.
In other words, they played like they meant it. And, in fact, took the lead at 42-41, and held as large as a three-point lead. An ill-timed empty possession, followed by a somewhat improbable three by Georgia's Nemanja Djurisic, gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead late that they wouldn't relinquish to the horn.
Couple of 'em for ya today:
As in the worst scoring output of a Kansas State Wildcats basketball team at home. In...program...history. It's the second-worst overall (an 11-point half on the road a handful of years ago), but the worst at home, in any of our venues. Even Nichols Gym.
5 pts, 13 reb, 4 ast, 12 to, 1 blk, 4 stl, 11.1 FG%.
That is the combined box score for the starting five of Thomas, Foster, Edwards, Williams, and Hurt. Foster was the only player that logged more than 16 minutes of those five, and even he sat for the last 13 minutes of the second half. None were effective, none were proficient, none seemed to really care.
After sixteen turnovers in the first half, K-State committed 3 in the second. So we know that some players can take care of the ball, at least.
Six non-conference losses is worse than even previous coaches Jim Wooldridge (5, twice) and Tom Asbury (3, four times). *Note...that comparison isn't entirely fair, because the collective strength of schedule of this non-con has actually be higher than any of those seasons...but supposedly, our talent is better, too. Nonetheless, here we are.
This is the first time K-State suffered two consecutive non-conference home losses in a season since 1987 under Lon Krueger.
K-State Player Of The Game: Thomas Gipson
If you can give out a PotG shout-out for a loss, it goes to Gip. The shakeup of starting the bench helped, as Gipson almost single-handedly pulled this game out. Gip fouled out late in the game, but not before he put up 19 pts, 9 reb, 1 blk in 30 minutes, with an ORtg (offensive rating) of 123 [above 110 is considered good, above 120 excellent].
Other Player Notes
Nigel Johnson contributed 9 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast, 0 to, with a ORtg of 126. Took some stupid shots, but played passable defense, and most importantly - didn't turn the ball over.
Foster was a dumpster fire tonight. 2 pts on 1-5 shooting, with 3 reb, 1 ast, 3 to. Bruce parked his kiester on the bench at the 13 minute mark of the second half, and he was a cheerleader the rest of the night.
ORtg for the starting five? An average of 25.4.
The two to watch from Georgia - Marcus Thornton and Charles Mann - didn't disappoint on their end. Thornton finished with 11 pts, 7 reb; Mann finished with 17 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast.
1. Talent vs. Desire
It will be interesting to see how Bruce moves forward with this team. Will he put players on the floor because of their talent or athleticism, or will he start running players with the desire to play? The Gip / MHarris / Iwundu / THarris / Johnson fivesome went on a 22-6 run because they played together. They played like they wanted to win. They played with some pride. I'd rather see that, compared to the junk that was on display in the first half with the 'regulars'.
2. Who are these guys?
Still don't know how to analyze this team, even 13 games in. I can throw all kinds of stats at you, but from a holistic perspective, they're all over the map. Consistently inconsistent. Get one thing right but completely flop on another facet. Play with passion for a limited time, then completely aloof and careless. Execute well, then look completely lost on both ends of the floor. It's maddening, because you can tell that we're good enough to win every game we played, save the Arizona game. But we haven't. Everyone is culpable at this point.
3. Gipson Turning A Corner?
I hope Gip's play helps him turn a corner. Heck, bring him off the bench the rest of the season if necessary. But that's how he can play, that's how we've seen him play on many occasions, and that's the first time we saw some true on-court leadership from the big hoss.
Big 12 play officially commences now, and begins with a road trip to Gallagher-Iba Arena to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday, January 3.