The Kansas State Wildcats (12-13, 5-7 Big 12) looked good at times, looked bad at times, but ultimately didn't have the goods on the glass to be able to steal a win in Morgantown, dropping a 76-72 contest to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
No longer just trending in the wrong direction, this version of the K-State men's basketball team is officially sliding downhill faster than Clark Griswold sledding down on a metal saucer coated in a "non-caloric, silicone-based kitchen lubricant that...creates a surface 500 times more slippery than any cooking oil."
This loss marks five in a row, the first five-game losing streak since February 2005.
This loss also puts the team under .500 for the first time this season, which is also the first time we've been under water overall this late in the season since 2004.
I don't think this loss was due to a lack of effort, or a lack of game plan, or anything like that. While we did go into the half down 11 (46-35), we clawed our way back to actually take a two-point lead late in the game, but immediately panicked on a play or two, coughed up the lead, and WVU was able to make enough free throws in the final minute to close the game out.
The loss by itself isn't necessarily alarming, but one could argue that giving up 14 points to a player that is averaging 1.8ppg and has only scored 12 points in conference play all season is certainly problematic. One could also argue that giving up 46 points in a half is not conducive to winning, and they'd be right. Holistically, though, the Cats fought hard and dropped what ended up being a close game, to a good team, on the road. Hell, the guys actually played pretty well on average.
Such is life in the Big 12 this year.
But in a broader picture, as already noted, it's five in a row now. Oklahoma comes into town on Saturday, so the likelihood of it becoming a six-game losing streak is not only there, but looming ominously.
The team obviously came out of the gate with the intent by aggressively attacking WVU's press and score in transition. The gameplan worked for the most part, with the Cats putting 72 points on the board - the most points scored by K-State since we scored 73 in a home win against Savannah State in mid-December.
The Cats connected on 56.8% of their field goal attempts tonight (25-44), which is absolutely nothing to scoff at. While there were more than a share of bunnies missed throughout the game, shooting at this rate shows that it more than averaged out over the 40 minutes.
Seventeen turnovers is a few too many. The Wildcats had been limiting turnovers to a certain extent, but giving up that many possessions is tough to overcome.
K-State Player(s) Of The Game: Nino Williams
Nino had a great game. The senior put up 22 points on 7-11 FG, 8-10 FT. He also contributed 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist. Any criticism this evening could be directed at some situational poor defense - Nino came up with his third foul mid-way through the second half, and was forced to play some 'ole' defense to avoid picking up his fourth.
Other Player Notes
Nigel Johnson and Jevon Thomas both started tonight, with Nigel having the clearly greater effect on the game. Johnson came up with 14 points on 4-7 shooting and 6-9 from the stripe, and chipped in 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals.
Thomas Gipson had some trouble dealing with the taller interior of the Mountaineers, but eventually did finish with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Big Gip picked up a 'T' late in the game after being called for a second travel after securing a rebound.
Justin Edwards came off the bench in lieu of Nigel Johnson. He still played well and seems to be finding a rhythm now, scoring 14 points (hitting both attempted 3PFG), and also snared 5 rebounds and dished 4 assists with only one turnover.
Sophomore forward Brandon Watkins (WVU) season statline:
1.8ppg, 1.9rpg, 0.1apg, 0.6bpg, 0.2spg in just over 7 minutes per contest
This dude put up 14 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist, and 1 blocked shot tonight. A legitimate gameplan can be to take a star out and make role players beat you. That gameplan completely backfires when that role player has the game of his life. Big 12 phenom Juwan Staten was kept in relative check (11pts, 6ast), as were the remainder of the starters. THREE players came off the bench to score in double digits for the Mountaineers, including Watkins, Jevon Carter (10) and Jaysean Paige (10).
1. The Big 12 is just tough to win games in this year.
I really don't have too bad a taste in my mouth for how the Cats played tonight. Sure, they turned it over - that's what WVU does. Sure we missed some chip-ins - but still shot nearly 60% from the floor. We had some lapses in defense, but by and large, our defense wasn't bad. And while we lost the battle on the glass, it wasn't by much.
Nope, we played OK. Not great, but just OK. And OK will not get you a win on the road this year - in any conference venue.
2. I honestly thought we'd get blown out by 30.
That's what I get for thinking. I was actually pretty impressed that everyone came out, ready to go, with a gameplan and looked like they believed they could win. That's actually relatively impressive given the ups and downs (and downs, and more downs) this team has endured this season.
3. Does the skid hit SIX on Saturday?
Buckle up, kids. This rabbit hole may get a bit deeper. We've got a shot, but man, it's a long one. Will Foster and Malek be back? Will their return screw up the chemistry that we saw start to develop tonight?
On Saturday, February 14, #EMAW returns to the MHK and Bramlage Coliseum to take on the Oklahoma Sooners.