Kansas State played efficient offense, brought its typical shutdown defense, and moved into a tie for
second first place in the Big 12 thanks to a fourth straight win and a shocking Kansas loss at last-place West Virginia and an almost equally shocking Texas Tech loss at Baylor.
The ‘Cats scored the first seven points and led wire-to-wire against TCU en route to a 65-55 win, the first time the Horned Frogs have been beaten by double figures since last February. It’s also the first time they’ve been held under 60 all season, although it’s probably worth noting they were without leading scorer and sixth man Kouat Noi, who was out sick and forced TCU to pull the redshirt of freshman center Russell Barlow.
Kamau Stokes hit a pair of early threes as K-State took an 11-3 lead, but the ‘Cats would only hit one the rest of the way. An effective offense found plenty of openings inside against man-to-man and zone defense, and KSU hit 19 of 33 shots (58%) from inside the arc.
TCU would cut the lead to one with a 10-1 run midway through the first half, capped off by a Desmond Bane 3-pointer. But Sneed answered with a 3-pointer to spark a quick 5-0 run and K-State led by 10 before a Kendric Davis three with 6 seconds left in the half.
The ‘Cats kept the Horned Frogs mostly at arm’s length in the second half, although Bane’s layup with 12:25 left cut the lead to four. K-State responded by reeling off a 6-0 run over the next two and a half minutes, capped off by a Dean Wade jumper.
The senior looked good once again in his third game back from injury, particularly as the primary high post target against TCU’s 2-3 and 3-2 zones. Wade finished with 16 points and 6 assists, although we have to admit it’s a bit troubling he grabbed just one rebound for the second straight game.
Meanwhile, TCU’s offense could never really get going and didn’t even hit a 3-pointer in the second half until JD Miller’s jumper with 2:14 left. The Horned Frogs ended the game just 6-of-24 (25%) from 3 and 42.6% from the field, both well below their season averages.
Naturally, that started with Barry Brown, who drew the difficult assignment of point guard Alex Robinson. The sophomore averages close to a double-double with 8 assists per game, but even though he scored 17 on 6-of-11 shooting, he nearly got a double-double the wrong way with 8 turnovers compared to just 4 assists.
On the offensive end, Brown was rather quiet, missing all three of his 3-point attempts and scoring just 10 points. But the rest of the ‘Cats had his back, even shooting 18-of-24 from the free throw line, keeping their percentage at an impressive 78% over the last three games.
What we learned:
- Kansas State doesn’t need to hit 3-pointers to be efficient on offense. Sure, it helps when a guy like Kam, Barry, X or Dean gets hot, and they’re all capable of it from time-to-time. But there’s no reason for this team to shoot 25+ threes a game, so it was really refreshing to see them passing well, attacking the basket and not settling for long jumpers. The ‘Cats wound up with 15 assists on 22 field goals, which is quite good.
- The ‘Cats are getting better at taking care of the ball. You’d expect such an experienced team to be responsible with the basketball, and it’s not like Kansas State was bad entering this game with just 11.7 turnovers per game (although a slow pace makes that look better than it is). Still, KSU took it to another level today with only 7 turnovers, just one above a season-low. The ‘Cats are averaging just 10 turnovers per game in Big 12 play and less than 9 during this 4-game win streak. It’s always helpful to have a +11 turnover margin.
K-State just might be the hottest team in the Big 12. Yes, I’m serious, and it’s quite remarkable considering the conversations we were having about this team less than two weeks ago. K-State now has the league’s longest win streak (by 3 games!) and some serious momentum with a chance to
move intoremain in first place on Tuesday. Although it’s perhaps not reflected by a crowd under 10,000 thanks in part to winter weather that shut down part of I-70, fans seem about as excited as they can be for a Bruce Weber team that is, admittedly, still playing a style of basketball that is not exactly fun to watch. But it’s a lot more enjoyable when it’s effective.
Kansas State gets a shot at Texas Tech at home on Tuesday, and Bramlage should be rocking.
Assuming the Red Raiders beat Baylor (the Bears are up 2 at half as I write this) Since the Red Raiders lost, the Wildcats will be playing for to keep a share of first place, and this is a big one to keep the momentum going before playing 4 of 5 games on the road.