In the battle of the Big 12’s best defenses, Kansas State (15-4, 5-2 Big 12) held down Texas Tech (15-4, 4-3) Tuesday night in Manhattan, winning 58-45 to keep a hold on a first-place tie with Kansas for the conference lead.
Texas Tech entered the contest second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 55.8 points per game. K-State eclipsed that figure, though just barely. K-State was surrendering an average of 59.2 points per game, and exceeded expectations on an icy night in Manhattan.
The teams played even through the first three media timeouts, at 7-all, 11-all and 15-all. To that point in the game, Texas Tech had four points off six K-State turnovers and six second chance points. But the Wildcats cleaned up the ball-handling and did a better job of blocking out over the last 7:59 of the half, resulting in a 17-9 run and a 32-24 lead at the break.
The Red Raiders cut the margin to six on two occasions in the second half, but K-State always found an answer, kept the Raiders from threatening to steal the win, and ultimately cruised to the final buzzer.
Defensively, the Cats were sublime. All-everything sophomore Jarrett Culver managed 17 points, but shot 6-16 from the floor, including 1-6 from three-point range. Barry Brown did his usual solid job of shadowing and staying in front of the Red Raiders’ best player, and Mike McGuirl continued his progression into a solid on-the-ball defender, as well. Together they forced Culver into three turnovers, offsetting his three assists. The team held Texas Tech to 32.7 percent (16-49) shooting, including 21.7% (5-23) from three-point range.
Offensively, K-State used a balanced scoring attack to build the margin and hold it. Brown scored 15, with Dean Wade contributing 13. Mike McGuirl, Kamau Stokes, and Makol Mawien added 9, 8 and 7, respectively.
Besides Culver, human pogo-stick Tariq Owens reached double-figures for Texas Tech, with 12 points. Davide Moretti, who lit K-State up for 19 points in the teams’ first match-up, only managed six in Manhattan, on 2-6 shooting.
K-State won the rebounding battle, 33-25, using the same team-effort approach. Brown had seven, Xavier Sneed six, and Mawien and Wade grabbed four each.
Though the Cats’ 58-point total may not appear all that impressive, they shot 46.3% from the floor, besting the Red Raiders’ 34.9 percent average-against on the season by a double-digit margin.
What we Learned
- Whatever problems led to ugly performances to start league play, Weber and his staff have solved them. The defense is locked in, holding everyone of late below their season averages, and the offense has looked much more fluid since the win at OU. The point totals may not be high, but that seems to be more a product of K-State’s chosen pace than an inability to find open shots now.
- Balance is nice. On a night where Brown only found 11 shots (making six), and Stokes went 1-6 from the floor, scoring had to come from somewhere else. Wade’s 13 came on only six shots, coupled with 7-for-8 accuracy from the free throw stripe. McGuirl’s nine points off the bench (in addition to his defense) were a needed injection of life. If teams are going to key on Brown and Wade—and they are, of course—the supporting cast will have to step up to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the overplay on the two leading men.
- If there is anything to nitpick, the ‘Cats failed on a few opportunities to widen the margin still further. On consecutive possessions, McGuirl and Mawien each missed on dunk attempts. In spite of leading the team offensively, Brown was only 1-of-5 from the free throw line. Still, with their defensive intensity, they locked up the game and never gave fans reason to fear.
K-State takes its show to familiar but long-lost grounds from the past, as it will face Texas A&M in the Big 12/SEC challenge Saturday at 1:00. The Aggies are 7-9 on the season and have lost five of their last six games, including a 66-43 home defeat at home to Missouri in their last contest.