The Kansas State Wildcats (7-1) made the trip to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-5), hoping to pick up a coveted road win while avenging the loss that quasi-derailed K-State’s gridiron season. Though Vandy’s record wasn’t sterling entering the contest, at #65 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, they were arguably the best team left on the Wildcats’ non-conference slate.
Vanderbilt came into the game shooting about 40% from the field, and only 30% from behind the arc. So, naturally, one would expect that they would come out hot against the Wildcats. The two squads traded punches through the first four minutes; coming out of the first media timeout, however, K-State played its most dominant basketball of the season so far. Good ball movement, solid defense, and passable rebounding sent the Cats on a 28-10 run and a lead of 16, before the final four minutes of back-and-forth whittled the halftime gap to 13. K-State shot a scorching 62% from the floor in the first half.
The second half was a different story, as the Wildcats put it on cruise control, seemingly expecting Vandy to just roll over. Defensively, the Cats didn’t maintain the same intensity level as the first stanza, and rebounding...hmm. I would say we did a poor job of rebounding, but “doing a poor job” requires doing some sort of job in the first place. The Commodores threw all five players at the offensive glass, resulting in 14 offensive rebounds and who knows how many second-chance points and fouls on purple jerseys. Vanderbilt chipped away at the 13-point halftime lead, and tied the game at 71-all with 3:33 left.
Some timely buckets, ramped up defensive intensity, and clutch makes from the charity stripe allowed the Cats to stay slightly in front, and a Xavier Sneed steal of a Vandy post-entry pass with just a couple of ticks left on the clock sealed the deal for the road victory.
Player(s) of the Game: Kamau Stokes (1st Half); Xavier Sneed (2nd Half)
Kam played a fantastic first half, demonstrating why he is this team’s floor general. Swishing nearly everything he put up, distributing the ball with a couple of nifty dimes, and hounding Vandy’s guys out front; Stokes finished with 20 points (6-11 FG, 2-5 3PFG, 6-6 FT), 6 assists with a goose egg in the TO column, and snared a rebound.
X really shone in the second half, scoring 6 of 10 K-State points early, leading off with a back-door alley-oop from Kam at the 16-minute mark. He kept the heat on, finishing the game with a career-high 21 points (8-11 FG, 1-4 3PFG, 4-4 FT), 2 boards, 3 steals, and an assist.
Player Notable Notes:
Microwave went for 18 on 6-12 shooting, 5-5 from the line, and added 2 rebounds and 2 steals. He was curiously whistled for a double-T with Vandy’s Riley LaChance in the second half, which sent Barry to the bench with four, but more importantly, DQ’d the Vanderbilt shooter with 5 fouls.
Levi Stockard led scoring for the Wildcats’ interior with career-highs of 7 points and 14 minutes of action.
Cartier Diarra also made a couple of things happen in his 13 minutes, with 4 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL and, just like Kam, zero turnovers.
The Dean couldn’t seem to find much of an offensive rhythm, netting only 6 PTS, but finishing with 3 AST and a team-high 7 REB before fouling out late in the second half.
Vandy’s Jeff Roberson added to his stack of double-doubles this season, finishing with 22 and 10 (6 offensive boards). Frosh Saben Lee picked up 19 PTS from a steady diet of trips to the free throw line (12-17).
Three In The Key:
- Waiting For The Ball =/= Rebounding. The Cats got positively destroyed on the glass in the second half of this game. There was a point, with about 7:00 left in the game, where Vandy had more offensive rebounds than K-State had total rebounds. Vandy outrebounded K-State 33-21 for the game, with the gap coming almost entirely from the offensive side of the floor. Folks, this is the fatal flaw for this team, and will be the limiting factor on how well this team winds up performing over the season. Great teams don’t get crushed on the offensive glass like this. NCAA Tournament-caliber teams don’t get crushed on the offensive glass like this. The mind-numbing thing is this: WE all know its a problem. BRUCE knows its a problem. OTHER TEAMS know its a problem. And yet, the effort is just not there. A shot goes up, and not a single purple jersey is backing into a shirt of a different color. Everyone just turns and looks up at the rim, hoping the ball comes to them. Meanwhile, today, white jerseys were swarming the rim in the second half, getting second- and third- and (even) fourth-chance opportunities to score. The Wildcats won this game on the back of 58% shooting from the floor, 92% from the stripe, and only committing 7 turnovers, despite the rebounding margin.
- Hot Streak...or Can These Guys Really Score? So, I’m not quite sure what to make of the Wildcats’ prowess shooting the ball so far this year. Here’s a rundown of FG%, game by game: 55%, 41%, 39%, 50%, 58%, 47%, 48%, and 58%. Averaging 48% for the season, and 38% from deep. This is starting to become a large enough sample size to see that the guys can actually shoot the ball with aplomb this season. All with a team A/TO ratio of 17:11. Aside from when things are being forced a bit, we should like what we’re seeing from the offensive end of the floor. However, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns - the Wildcats have played the 324th worst defensive strength of schedule (out of 351 teams). The key will be if they can continue to find the open shots they’ve been creating to this point when the difficulty ramps up in the Big 12 gauntlet.
- Is Free Throw Shooting Really A Strength? K-State is shooting 71% on the season from the charity stripe, and that is considering Dean Wade’s miserable start to the year from the line (he’s now climbed back up to 61% for the season). The Cats went 22-24 today, including clutch makes to keep their nose in front late in the game. Four of the team’s top-8 minute players are averaging over 71% (Kam at 74%, Microwave at 82%, X at 88%, and Sideshow at 71%). I’m not saying they’re not capable of missing at inopportune moments, but I’m personally starting to breathe normally with a purple jersey at the line.
Before We Go:
Vanderbilt’s floor is stupid.
Well, the floor isn’t, but the idea of locating benches on the baselines is. I understand the bench arrangement is a relic from the 1950’s, when the endline location was a more common occurrence. But they’re the only gym that comes to mind as far as an atypical bench configuration. One gym, in 351 Division I schools.
Advantage, disadvantage; plausible arguments can be made either way. But the fact that this is the unique characteristic seems arbitrary. There’s no reason whatsoever for it to continue to be arranged with benches on the endlines.
K-State returns to the Octagon of Doom this coming Tuesday (12/5) for a tilt with the South Carolina Upstate Spartans. Tipoff scheduled for 7:00pm.
The Spartans are 3-7 on the year and #297 in kenpom. Who schedules these games?