Amazing how difficult a team can make basketball look when it can’t make open shots. Also amazing how quickly a team on a 5-game winning streak can squander much of the goodwill and positive vibes it stored up over two and a half weeks of solid play. Kansas State lost, 65-53, at Texas A&M in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
K-State, (15-5, 5-2 Big 12) shot 44.4% (12-27) from the floor and forced 11 turnovers in the first half against Texas A&M (8-10, 1-5 SEC) to lead the Aggies, 30-26, at halftime in College Station. On the first play out of the locker room after the break, Dean Wade hit an open three-pointer to push the Widcats’ lead to seven. K-State would not score again for more than seven minutes, while A&M went on a 12-0 run.
A three-pointer by Diarra ended the drought and brought K-State back within two, at 38-36, but the Aggies answered with a 6-0 run to stretch the lead back out.
The Cats looked as if they might hang around and steal the game, but after a quick flurry spurred by Diarra’s hustle and a couple of jumpers got them back to within three with six and a half minutes to play, Texas A&M finished on a 16-7 run.
K-State shot an abysmal 23.5 percent (8-34) in the second half. Compounding the shooting woes, the Wildcats also turned the ball over eight times after halftime, always, it seemed, just as they were poised to make a positive run at getting close to the lead again.
How anemic was the K-State offense? Consider this: The Wildcats forced 20 turnovers, scoring 25 points off them. They also had 9 second-chance points. Take those stats away, and the Cats scored only 19 points that were not aided by opponent miscues.
Wade led K-State in scoring, with 17, on 7-15 shooting. Diarra awoke from a scoring slumber to dump in 14, reaching that total on a comparatively red-hot 50% (6-12) shooting stroke. Barry Brown scored 11 points, but only managed to shoot 3 of 9 from the field. Kamau Stokes scored 8 on 3-for-11 touch. He also managed to toss six assists, which seems like some kind of minor miracle amid the offensive fiasco.
Wendell Mitchell led Texas A&M with 22 points, every one of which came after intermission. TJ Starks and Savion Flagg scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, to round out the Aggies’ double-digit scorers.
What we Learned
- Last week, we learned that K-State can play with and even beat some pretty good teams. Wins at Iowa State and Oklahoma, each ranked No. 20 at the time, even suggested it did not matter whether Bruce and the guys met those teams at home or on the road. Today’s debacle reminded us that K-State is still capable of playing down to lesser teams, because the Wildcats just can’t score consistently if they are not forcing live-ball turnovers.
- The zone offense still is not fixed. When Texas Christian tried to run a zone in Manhattan last week, the Cats fed the ball to Dean Wade in the high post, and he made good decisions to create easy looks for teammates. Texas A&M clearly knew better than to let Dean catch around the free throw line. The Aggies packed the zone and dared the Cats to beat them from outside. There were plenty of open looks, but nobody could knock them down consistently enough to force A&M to spread the zone or abandon it. On the day, K-State made 7 of 31 three-point attempts. Not many days where the Wildcats shoot 30+ three-pointers will turn out to be good days.
- This game was shades of Tulsa. Against opponents perceived to be inferior, on the road in dead environments, K-State has failed to deliver twice. Winning on the road is hard, sure. Even KU has found it tough mudding this year, sporting a 1-3 road record that includes a loss to West Virginia—the Mountaineers’ only conference win thus far. Good teams find a way to overcome the environment, though, whether intimidating or somnolent, and it is disappointing to see Bruce’s guys fail at it twice. Had they won against Tulsa and A&M, where they were favored both times, the Wildcats would be 17-3. What would they be ranked if they could have done that? What potential seed would we anticipate? Ah, well. Nothing to do now but look ahead. Can’t do anything about could’a-been, should’a-been, sure wish it would’a-been.
K-State is off until next Saturday, when they travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State in another game the Cats should be expected to win. Maybe the off week will let a few guys get in the gym to find their shooting touch.