Well, that sure was a lot more interesting than it needed to be, or than it looked like it would be at the opening tipoff and when the second half started. Apparently Kansas State's woes, notably occasional laziness to go with atrocious shooting, aren't just limited to road games in conference play.
Kansas State's best three players all turned in their worst performances in quite some time against a Texas Tech team that battled hard - no surprise from a Tubby Smith-coached team - but didn't really have the athletes or talent to match up with the Wildcats. Luckily, Nino Williams and yes, D.J. Johnson stepped up huge off the bench to save K-State from embarrassment on the way to a 66-58 win that was not nearly that comfortable.
Still, it was a win, extending K-State's streak at home to 12 games (I'm counting Gonzaga in Wichita) and keeping the ‘Cats just a game back of second place. With that in mind, let's start with the positives. This list may be short.
Will Spradling deserves a lot of credit for his leadership as maybe the only guard who looked truly confident in the second half, when Texas Tech cut a 12-point halftime lead all the way down to 48-47 with 7 minutes left. He made 7-of-8 free throws and even hit a couple threes to go along with an important reverse layup late to lead all scorers with 17 points.
Freshman Wesley Iwundu still has some work to do on his consistency, but he showed some eye-opening athleticism and willingness to make plays when it matters. The 6-7 forward had 11 points, converted a pair of alley-oops, and either made or assisted Shane Southwell for a wide open layup on K-State's only three field goals in the final 12 minutes.
The aforementioned Williams actually looked like an excellent basketball player much of the game to go along with great effort that led to 13 points. D.J. Johnson doesn't have that kind of smooth game and basketball skills, but he played as hard as anyone to finish with a nice stat line of 4 points, 7 rebounds (team-high), 2 blocks and a steal.
Thankfully, K-State got off to a great start with high energy on defense and made its last 12 free throws. Along with Texas Tech's awful 34% shooting, that's how the ‘Cats won this game.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons it was so close was because Kansas State made just 7 of its first 15 free throws, including 1-of-4 by Jevon Thomas. That's simply unacceptable, as is getting outrebounded 34-32 by the Red Raiders in Bramlage.
I understand that Shane Southwell and Marcus Foster are going to have some bad shooting nights, which is why their 0-of-8 from beyond the arc doesn't actually bother me that much. The larger problem was they only made one two-point field goal each and didn't shoot a single free throw until Southwell hit two to extend the lead to 8 with 18 seconds left.
Neither of them did a whole lot of impressive things on the boards or on defense, either, but at least they were on the floor. The same couldn't be said much of the game for Thomas Gipson, who uncharacteristically battled foul trouble (yes, some calls were questionable) and continued to struggle against extra defensive pressure.
Jevon Thomas didn't really look like himself either, despite some quality passing early in the game. He looked more like a freshman point guard with his 3 turnovers, and layups remain about as difficult for him as smiling was for John Boehner during tonight's State of the Union address.
We can only hope this game will be a wake-up call in advance of Saturday's game at West Virginia, another one K-State really can't afford to lose. The Mountaineers did win at Baylor tonight (LOL Scott Drew) and have taken good teams to the wire in Morgantown, but K-State is clearly the better team on paper.