MANHATTAN, Kan. — With a 68-52 loss to Gonzaga still fresh in their minds, Kansas State basketball players will take the court against Texas Southern on Tuesday with two priorities.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
The Wildcats want to win, and they want to break out of their recent scoring slump.
If they can do both, K-State guard Angel Rodriguez thinks they will be ready for the more-anticipated game this week, against No. 8 Florida on Saturday at the Sprint Center.
Weve got to get better offensive-wise, said Rodriguez, a sophomore guard. Its a long season, though. Weve just got to watch film and continue to get better. Its a long season, weve got good teams in the Big 12 and weve still got a couple games before the Big 12 starts. Its not over yet.
But a sense of urgency is starting to sink in. K-State coach Bruce Weber hoped the Wildcats would have adjusted to his motion offense by now. But that isnt the case against formidable defenses. Though they are averaging 79.4 points and hitting 48.2 percent of their shots at Bramlage Coliseum against small-conference opponents, those numbers are much lower away from home.
In four games on neutral or road courts, K-State is averaging 60 points and shooting 36 percent. Struggling offense was a common thread in the Wildcats losses to No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Gonzaga, but they reached season lows against the Bulldogs on Saturday in Seattle. K-State scored 52 points and connected on 33.3 percent of its shots. The Wildcats also turned the ball over 18 times.
No wonder it was the most lopsided loss of the year.
I made a stupid mistake the first play of the game, said sophomore forward Thomas Gipson, who didn't score a point and committed three turnovers. I throw it right to the defender. I should have known they were going to post trap me. Simple mistakes really cost us the game.
Without so many giveaways, K-State would have been in better position. But it still might not have won. It couldnt match Gonzaga inside.
Senior forward Jordan Henriquez, who many expected to be an all-conference player this season, had another poor game. He was held scoreless in 10 minutes, despite catching the ball in good scoring position early. DJ Johnson and Adrian Diaz combined for eight points and three turnovers. And Nino Williams missed the second half because of an injured right shoulder.
Leading scorer Rodney McGruder was kept in check on the inside and the perimeter. He scored four points and committed five turnovers.
What needs to change for that group to start producing on a consistent basis? Plenty.
We probably dont screen as well as we need to help (McGruder) get open, but hes also got to shoot open shots when he has opportunities, Weber said. We dont make the next read. Sometimes the screener is open. Sometimes the cutter is open. It can be a set, it can be transition, it can be motion, but we have to get to the point where we are making the next play. They fought one way, were wide open, but weve got to make that pass to get easy points.
The good news is K-State has defended well. It hasnt allowed more than 71 points, and if that continues, incremental improvements on offense should lead to more victories.
We defend well enough, but you cant break down, Weber said. Its a long season. A lot can happen. We have just got to go back and keep getting better and hopefully get over the hump sooner than later.
Players think they are close offensively, and point to quality scoring opportunities against Gonzaga as proof. If not for sloppy play and some bad decisions, they say the final score would have looked better.
We just have to continue to get better, Rodriguez said. I dont know how long it will take us, but I wouldnt expect it to take a while. This is basically the same team as last year.
Texas Southern, losers of seven in a row, offers an opportunity for them to experiment and learn. But the Wildcats need to take advantage. Big 12 play isnt that far away.
To reach Kellis Robinett, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/KellisRobinett.