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Kansas State offense stumbles in 64-49 loss at Kansas

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The Wildcats’ leading scorers couldn’t do much of anything against a tenacious Kansas defense and a chance to knock KU out of the Big 12 race slipped away.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Kansas
This Austin Trice dunk was the only time K-State scored in the paint during the first half.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after their best offensive performance of the season, the Wildcats reverted back to all of their worst offensive tendencies Monday night.

We know, of course, that it’s extremely tough to play in Allen Fieldhouse, for a lot of reasons, not all of which have anything to do with the players on the court. But the lack of ball movement, too many turnovers, poor shooting and shot selection from such an experienced team was tough to watch.

It’s worth noting Kansas deserves quite a bit of credit for much of that thanks to impressive relentless ball pressure, especially by Devon Dotson on Barry Brown. The Jayhawks also did well challenging the Wildcats every time they attacked the rim, usually without a whistle blowing.

Dedric Lawson is still really good at basketball and he showed it by scoring 18 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists. Meanwhile K-State’s own Player of the Year candidate, Brown, scored a season-low 4 points on 1-of-8 shooting and Dean Wade, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, had only 8 points and 5 rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting.

Kansas State’s defense came to play, preserving a shutout for more than four minutes and holding the Jayhawks to worse than 40 percent from the field. Barry was great, as usual, and it was nice to see Dean moving fairly well on his feet to keep up with Lawson on multiple occasions.

Unfortunately, a sloppy start on offense negated 3-pointers by Mak (yes, really) and X, as five early turnovers helped KU take an 11-10 lead with an 8-0 run. K-State’s offense also suffered from some familiar problems with ball movement, most often when everyone else stood around watching to see what Barry would do with the ball.

Once again, Bruce Weber’s refusal to play anyone with two fouls before halftime came into play after Mak and Dean went to the bench and didn’t return. Was that the result of some questionable calls? Sure. But Bruce’s lack of trust in veterans to play without fouling continues to be perplexing and frustrating at times.

That’s especially true when Levi Stockard and Austin Trice are struggling and Kansas stretches out its lead. If not for a difficult 3-pointer and mid-range jump shot from Kam Stokes, the halftime deficit of 34-27 could have been much worse.

It trended in that direction when the ‘Cats began the second half by missing their first seven shots, just like KU started the game. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Stokes and Wade cut the KU advantage down to eight with 15:16 left, but it never really felt like Kansas State could sustain anything long enough to mount a serious comeback.

The Jayhawks got better looks all night long and earned a win to keep its hopes of a Big 12 title alive, while first-place Kansas State might need to beat its final three opponents to stay on top. A win in Lawrence would have been the highlight of what has been a sensational season to this point, but there’s still time for the ‘Cats to bounce back and do some big things.

What we learned:

  1. The offensive issues aren’t gone: I guess finally moving into the KenPom top 100 in offensive efficiency didn’t magically cure all of Kansas State’s offensive ills. Again, credit to KU’s defense, but scoring 49 points while shooting 32% from the field and an atrocious 28% from two-point range isn’t going to beat anyone. Depth and a lack of reliable shooters are problems Bruce can’t fix this season, but K-State must be smarter about attacking the rim more and not settling for so many jump shots, even if it’s tough to score at the basket.
  2. Kansas State’s bench remains suspect: I don’t want to say the 38 bench points against Oklahoma State was a mirage, but the Wildcats’ reserves have combined for only 28 points in the other five games since beating KU in Manhattan. Incidentally, in that game, the bench scored 19 points with 11 from Cartier Diarra. Sure would be nice to have him back.
  3. A familiar feeling: Two impressive performances in losses the past two years gave us some reason to believe Kansas State had overcome its mental block when playing in Lawrence. Many of these same players contributed significantly to a 73-72 loss last year and a 90-88 loss the year before when Svi traveled, which made it all the more disappointing to see K-State play poorly in another double-digit loss at Allen Fieldhouse. Hopefully this one won’t start another streak like the one from 2007-2016.