So close, yet so far away. The recurring theme of the Big 12 season so far is that the Cats can compete, but aren't experienced enough to close things out. It certainly rang true earlier this week, as K-State dropped another 2OT win, this time to Baylor in Waco. Today presents a good opportunity to pick up a much needed win, as the Kansas State Wildcats (11-7, 1-5 Big12, #44 kenpom, #55 RPI) return home to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Manhattan. Tipoff scheduled for 5:00p CST.
Know Your Opponent
Oklahoma State (10-8, 2-4 Big12, #58 kenpom, #140 RPI) has definitely taken a step backward from some of there recent incarnations, and the loss of Phil Forte for the year to injury earlier this season has put the Cowboys behind the eight ball. Plus, Travis Ford.
But, just to show you there are no rest days in the Big 12 gauntlet - Okie Lite just pasted KU by 19 earlier this week in Stillwater. Go figure.
Oklahoma State hasn't been very competitive away from Gallagher-Iba - admittedly not surprising. They've gotten waxed by 17 by both Baylor and West Virginia on the road, and also dropped a 5-point contest at Texas. Outside of the Kansas win, their best win this season is against #96 kenpom Long Beach State...twice in a row, as a matter of fact.
Keep a close watch on:
An argument can be made - rather easily - that 6-foot freshman Jawun Evans is the best player on the team. He's coming into the game averaging a team-leading 12.9ppg on 42% shooting, and adds 5.1apg and 4.4rpg. He also connects on nearly 47% from behind the arc, but has only shot 32 threes on the season. Of note, he scored 22, and added 8 assists and 6 rebounds in the win over the Jayhawks, and put up 42 points, along with 6 assists and 7 boards, in a 74-72 home loss to Oklahoma. Turnovers might be an issue for him, though, handing it over 6 times and 5 times in those games, respectively. Regardless, Evans is taking on the appearance of an all-Big12 performer.
Off the bench, look for Anthony Allen. The lanky seven-foot senior is a solid rim protector, blocking shots on 13.1% of possessions that come his way.
The metrics actually indicate that Oklahoma State is an average team offensively. They're taking care of the ball pretty well, are average at offensive rebounding, and are average shooting from the floor. Their mediocre shooting rates from the floor (34.8% 3PFG, 48.6% 2PFG) are offset by their very good team FT rate at 73.8%. They're not chucking a ludicrous number of threes (17 per game), but connecting from behind the arc was a huge key in their win versus Kansas, where they went 11-21 from outside. At the end of the day, with no true standout offensive players, Oklahoma State is going to bring a well-rounded offensive attack our way, so K-State needs to worry more about limiting easy shots, grabbing rebounds, and not fouling, as opposed to focusing on an inside presence or a three-point barrage.
Defensively, the weakness of the Cowboys surrounds pressure and second-chance opportunities. They're boasting a very good eFG%, and land right around top-50 in 3PFG%, 2PFG%, and Block%. However, they're not forcing many turnovers, and are giving up a high rate of offensive rebounds to opponents. Expect zone...again...as Okie Lite is going to field a squad that's a bit shorter than ours. With a solid defensive performance from the Wildcats, some simple execution and maybe a slightly-above-average shotmaking day should be good enough.
F Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 210 Jr
F Dean Wade, 6-10 225 Fr
F Stephen Hurt, 6-11 265 Sr
G Justin Edwards, 6-4 200 Sr
G Kamau Stokes, 6-0 170 Fr
Oklahoma State Cowboys
F Jeffery Carroll, 6-6 205 So
F Leyton Hammonds, 6-7 215 Jr
C Mitchell Solomon, 6-9 240 So
G Jawun Evans, 6-0 175 Fr
G Jeff Newberry, 6-2 185 Sr
3 Keys To The Game
Let's see some better ballhandling, greater focus, and improved execution later in the game. These guys need a breakthrough game in the worst way. We're seeing them improve, start to get some things, and remain competitive. The next major step they need to make is being able to close a game out, to be able to buckle down and get it done. This is our third-best remaining opportunity for a win - for the remainder of the season - so it would be best to not squander it.
2. Make some shots.
The focus needs to continue, and needs to be addressed through offensive execution and working for open shots. While we're seeing some flashes of better shooting, it's still not nearly good enough across the board. K-State's got to make a few buckets to win games, plain and simple.
3. Limit turnovers.
A string of ill-timed turnovers doomed us against Baylor, letting a lead as much as 10 points evaporate in the second half. A great way of letting the Cowboys steal a win today would be to give them - a team that doesn't turn their opponents over often - more opportunities at scoring. Let's look for the guys to take better care of the ball today.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.