Kansas State’s young basketball team led early and hung around with No. 18 Texas Tech for most of the game Tuesday night in Lubbock before ultimately falling 82-71.
It may sound like sunshine-pumping, but considering the adversity they had to overcome, this outcome suggests real progress is being made in Manhattan. Consider this:
- K-State (5-7, 1-3 Big 12) traveled to Texas Tech (9-3, 2-2) with only eight scholarship players due to injury, COVID-19 and who-knows-what other roadblocks.
- The Cats were without Montavious Murphy (a starter last year), Antonio Gordon (a useful, high-energy tweener), Kaosi Ezeagu (another big to compliment Davion Bradford) and Luke Kasubke (who has yet to play this year, but since we’re listing hurdles...he would have helped).
- Four players played 30 or more minutes, with Mike McGuirl and Nijel Pack logging 38 each.
- The Cats committed turnovers on their first two possessions and were down 4-0 before getting a shot up, but they settled in and came back to take a lead.
- Just as Davion Bradford began to assert himself as an unguardable force with three dunks to start the second half, he was saddled with a fourth foul on a questionable moving screen (kudos for the head-fakes, Tech) and watched the next ten minutes of play from the bench.
- K-State shot nine free throws, making all of them. Texas Tech shot 36 (yes, thirty-six), making 30. A little quick math shows that K-State actually outscored Tech from the floor by a count of 72-62. (Yes, we know that’s not how the game is scored.)
- Selton Miguel and Seryee Lewis were both called for technical fouls after making buckets through contact, in traffic. It’s impossible to know what Selton said, but it was clear that Lewis’s ticket was issued for shouting, “And one!” Which, as we know, nobody has ever done in the history of the game without earning a “T.” Tech, naturally, made all four free throws.
So, yes. There was much to overcome. And, yes, the Wildcats did cause some of their own hardships. And, yes again, they did not prove quite up to the task. But they made Tech, the No. 18 team in the country, work for it until the last 30 seconds in their own gym. So pardon us for accentuating the positive.
Pack started the game strong, making 6 of 7 shots, including 3 of 4 from three-point range, to score 15 in the first half. Miguel hit open shots (2-4 from three-point range) and drove to the basket aggressively. He finished the game tying Pack for team high honors with 17 points, and he did it on 6-12 shooting—a marked improvement from his O-fer in Saturday’s match against TCU.
Bradford was asserting himself as a dunking machine off nice feeds from Miguel (6 assists) and McGuirl (5 assists), before the aforementioned foul trouble took him out of the game for an extended period. For the game, K-State managed a 15-14 assist-to-turnover margin—more than acceptable against a swarming defensive squad like Tech.
Probably the most encouraging stat is this: Against a Texas Tech team that led the nation in scoring defense at 54.7 points per game when the night began, K-State put up 71 points. And they did it with contributions from a number of players. For a team that has struggled to score, that is good news, indeed.
As has been the case, though, a couple of scoring droughts doomed the effort. After going up 17-10 on a three by Pack at the 10:23 mark of the first half, K-State would not score again until McGuirl hit a jumper with 7:00 to play. That shot gave the Wildcats their last lead, at 19-17. Though they were within 1 with 90 seconds remaining in the half, Tech closed on a 6-2 burst that included a shot off an inbound play with one second on the clock that hung on the rim interminably, and ultimately dropped through.
In the second half, after Bradford went out less than four minutes into the period, the Cats only scored two points over the course of more than five minutes, while Texas Tech went on a 14-2 run. The game could have completely gotten away at that point, but K-State cut the deficit to 10, hung around in low double-digits for awhile, and got within 7 in the last minute, 78-71, before free throws iced the game.
Miguel and Pack each scored 17, while McGuirl and Bradford dropped in 10 each.
Shannon scored 22 for Tech off the bench. Mac McClung and Marcus Santos-Silva also hit double figures, with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Three in the Key
- The Free-throwing Jeckyll and Hyde performance was on the good side tonight. The Wildcats’ 9-for-9 showing from the free throw line constituted the most attempts in a perfect shooting performance in the Bruce Weber era, eclipsing a 5-5 at Kansas in 2019 and an 8-8 effort against Oklahoma in 2016. Now, if we could just find a way to get to the line thirty-freaking-six times. Free throw attempts were the most glaring disparity in a game where K-State otherwise matched up surprisingly well.
- The T’s, to this admittedly biased outside observer, seemed like referee thin-skinnery of the highest order. Moreover, after Tech’s Terrence Shannon Jr. dunked on a breakaway, shouted emphatically at Mike McGuirl, and ran back down the floor un-scolded, it seemed a little inconsistent. I’m not alone in this opinion. Witness this tweet from K-State alum and all-around good guy Pierson McAtee:
Doug Sirmons is softer than room temperature butter ♂️— Pierson McAtee (@pjmac_23) January 6, 2021
Correct and clever. The perfect tweet.
3. Wins are wins and losses are losses. We get it. But if there was ever a time to feel encouraged after a double-digit defeat, maybe this is it. K-State was in this game, did a lot of things well to be in this game, but there is still room for growth. Getting healthy will help. DaJuan Gordon, after being a huge factor recently, was relatively quiet tonight. We’ve been saying it, and maybe now we’re seeing it. This team could have a bright future. I doubt Texas Tech Head Coach Chris Beard is looking forward to the February 6 rematch in Manhattan.
K-State will host Oklahoma State (7-3, 1-2) at 5:00 Saturday.