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K-State falls at Butler, 76-64

After a night of poor shooting and defensive lapses, Tang’s Gang is undefeated no more.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-West Virginia vs Kansas State
Still no new pics. Here’s Nowell from last year.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Using efficient offense and balanced scoring, the Butler Bulldogs established an insurmountable lead over the Kansas State Wildcats, held off a second-half run, and claimed a 76-64 victory in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Wednesday night.

K-State, fresh off its tournament championship in the Cayman Islands Classic and carrying a 6-0 record for the first time since the 2018-2019 Big 12 Championship Season, made only 4 of 20 three-point attempts, while Butler made 8 of 20. Butler also outscored K-State by 10 at the free throw line, as K-State forced only 9 fouls on the evening and earned only 3 charity attempts, making 2.

Keyontae Johnson opened the scoring with a three-point make, giving the Cats their only lead of the game. It lasted less than a minute.

Johnson was just about all K-State had going offensively early in the game, scoring 10 of the Cats’ first 12 and keeping his team within 3 until the 13-minute mark. Johnson finished with 20 points on perfect 9-9 shooting, including 2-2 from outside. The 9-9 performance ties for second-most field goal attempts without a miss in K-State history. Johnson shares the distinction with Frank Martin-era big man Luis Colon, who accomplished the feat against Southern Mississippi in then-Sprint (now T-Mobile) Center in Kansas City in 2008. Joe Wright, who made all 11 of his attempts against Oklahoma State in 1985, holds the overall record for best shooting performance in a single K-State game. Johnson also led the Wildcats with 12 rebounds.

But no Wildcat was able to match Butler post Manny Bates, who scored a game-high 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting and simply got every easy shot he wanted. K-State, meanwhile, got only 8 points from its true post players, all of those from David N’Guessan. After appearing to be a revelation against Rhode Island and Nevada in the Caymans, Nae’Quan Tomlin has struggled to consecutive scoreless outings against LSU and Butler.

K-State trailed 37-25 at halftime but cut the deficit to five, 48-43, on a Cam Carter layup with 14:16 to play. The Cats held the Bulldogs to 4 points over a nearly five-minute period, but after making it a two-possession game, they had three empty possessions while Butler got a Bates dunk off a weakside rebound and two free throws from Chuck Harris to extend back to a 9-point advantage.

N’Guessan made a layup to get K-State back within 7, but the Cats would not score again for more than four and a half minutes as Butler pulled away. The deficit bulged to 65-45 before Desi Sills made a layup to break the drought. Sills would go on to score 13 of the next 15 points for the Wildcats and bring them back to within 68-60 with 4:08 remaining.

But K-State could neither get the stops it needed nor score consistently enough to get past the bigger, more balanced Butler Bulldogs on their home floor.

In addition to Johnson’s 20 and Sills’s 17 points, Markquis Nowell scored 13, albeit on 5-15 (1-6 from three) shooting. N’Guessan’s 8 points came on perfect 4-of-4 marksmanship, all at or near the rim. No other Wildcat scored more than 2 points, as the entire remainder of the roster chipped in only 6.

All five starters for Butler reached double figures.

Three in the Key

  1. K-State’s hopes of getting through the nonconference season undefeated are dashed. Now, we will get to see how Coach Tang and his staff use failure as a tool to motivate the team to improve. Getting more consistent contribution up and down the roster would be a helpful start,
  2. Though turnovers continue to be a problem, the Cats did cut down on them in Indianapolis, and actually committed one fewer (13) than Butler. K-State also won the points-off-turnovers statistic by a 12-6 count. The real culprits in this loss were the aforementioned poor outside shooting (4-20, 20%) and the inability to slow Butler’s offense consistently, allowing them to get open looks and to shoot 28-51 (54.9%) for the game.
  3. Johnson, Nowell, Sills and...who? Nowell was not as efficient scoring against Butler as he had been recently, but he contributed in other ways, tossing 8 assists against only 2 turnovers. Johnson has shown that he can score in a variety of ways and that he’ll fight for rebounds. He draws tons of attention, for obvious reasons, and turned it over five times tonight. He will get over that; he’s too good a player not to. Desi Sills has shown in consecutive games that he can take over games in spurts by getting to the rim. He also buried a long three-pointer late in the shot clock once in the second half, which is a useful wrinkle if he can do it consistently. But for K-State to reach the heights it wants to reach and be competitive in the rugged Big 12. the rest of the roster must contribute. N’Guessan had some nice minutes tonight, but against bigger, stronger competition inside, Tomlin has struggled in consecutive games. He is still relatively new to organized basketball, so the coaching staff should be able to mold his game through these experiences to make the athletic big a more consistent contributor.

Next up:

K-State hosts Wichita State (4-3) Saturday at 8:00 CST. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU