Kansas State (11-8, 4-2 Big 12) went in to Hilton Coliseum, and although they lost 71-77 to the Iowa State Cyclones (14-3, 4-1 Big 12), they showed that when they play up to their talent level, they can play with anyone in this league. With the exception of the Arizona game, this may be the most complete game the 'Cats have played all season, but unfortunately those games both ended in losses. So how did Kansas State finally put it together despite the loss?
It began on the offensive end, where Kansas State broke the 70 point mark for the first time since the Texas A&M game in Kansas City a month ago. Nino Williams led the scoring charge with 22 points on 8-13 shooting in 31 minutes. Marcus Foster also played one of his more complete games this season, playing almost the entire game (39 minutes), while dishing four assists and scoring 16 points. The two even teamed up to open the scoring in the first half, with Nino making a jumper off a Foster assist. They quickly repeated the process to jump out to an early 4-2 lead, before Monte Morris hit a three with 15:13 left to give the Cyclones their first lead. This lead to a back and forth first half, which eventually saw Iowa State pull away late. However, Marcus Foster's personal 7-0 run allowed Kansas State to end the half down only one.
The second half was much the same as the first, with Kansas State answering every Iowa State run. This trend continued until the 4:10 mark of the second half, at which point Kansas State decided it no longer knew how to run a coherent offense, scoring only one more time, a lay-up by Justin Edwards with two seconds left. Game over, as Kansas State suffered a valiant loss, and one which proves they can play with the best in the Big 12.
Kansas State assisted on 20 of their 26 shots tonight, which is a great percentage. Better execution down the stretch on offense would have certainly driven this number, but anytime you assist on over 75% of your shots, you know you are doing something right.
Only 10 turnovers tonight for Kansas State, which, when paired with the 20 assists, gives you (and I'll do the math for you non-math people out there) a two to one assist to turnover ratio. Limiting fast-break chances for Iowa State was a key to winning this game, and only turning the ball over 10 times certainly helped Kansas State bottle up Iowa State's fast-break game.
K-State Player(s) Of The Game: Marcus Foster and Nino Williams
Foster played great tonight, and as Nino Williams said in the post game "We live and die with Marcus at the end of the game". Unfortunately if there is one area Marcus didn't shine tonight, it was at the end of the game. Overall, Foster was 6-16 with 16 points, but he did have four assists, and five rebounds, while only turning the ball over twice. He was also responsible for keeping the 'Cats in the game at the end of the first half scoring seven of their last nine points in the period.
Nino followed up his fantastic game against Baylor with a solid, if not spectacular, game at Iowa State. He brought his unique brand of energy to the floor tonight, grabbing eight rebounds including three on the offensive glass, while adding four assists and three steals. This to go with his game high 22 points on 8-13 shooting. If Nino can keep this up he will give Kansas State a great second option to pair with Foster.
1. Execution costs Kansas State a chance at the win.
Bruce Weber cannot allow his team to go the last four minutes without scoring, especially in a game as tight as it was tonight. Weber even admitted as much saying the poor offensive sets at the end of the game "Goes to me. I have got to make sure we have stuff in there so we can get open looks down the stretch."
2. Jameel McKay is a freak!
McKay has a couple of just NASTY! plays during this game, on both sides of the ball. His athleticism is something that Kansas State struggled with, as he scored 15 points on 4-8 shooting. His biggest weakness, FT shooting, was anything but tonight as he went 7-9 from the line. If he can continue to improve as the season goes on, McKay can provide the defensive anchor Iowa State needs to make a deep run in the tournament.
3. It's time to care again.
Kansas State leaves Ames having missed out on a golden opportunity to improve its lead in the Big 12 standings, but overall it's hard to view this game as a disappointment, especially when you consider where this team was at the end of December. Lack of effort, lack of heart, lack of give a crap were all statements used to describe this team at one point during this season, and with the team's apathy, it was difficult to muster much enthusiasm heading into Big 12 play. That has changed, and tonight solidified this change. This team cares again, and plays hard and with effort even in losses, and now it's time to start caring with them.
#EMAW returns home to the friendly confines of the Octagon, as they hope to extract some revenge on the fighting hobbits of Oklahoma State on Saturday, January 24th.