MANHATTAN, Kan. — For the past month, Kansas State has been locked in a routine.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
Basketball games every Tuesday and Saturday. Rest every Sunday and Wednesday. Practice and maybe travel every Monday and Friday, and practice on Thursday.
K-State coach Bruce Weber is ready for that schedule to end.
“We just haven’t had time to practice,” Weber said. “You play a hard-fought game and then you come back. How long do you go? Especially with a young team, you want to make sure you save their legs down the stretch.... Throw some road games in, and takes a little bit of a toll. Last week, you play two road games against top 25 teams and you battle them until the end and that puts a mental toll on everyone. It wears on the coaches and the players. You add that all up and you’ve got to be careful.”
The Wildcats won’t have to worry about those issues much longer. Once they get past a 7 p.m. tip against Texas Tech on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum and a trip to West Virginia on Saturday, they will receive a week off. A much-needed week off, according to Weber.
Of course, K-State can’t look ahead just yet.
“This bye week will be very good, but we have to get through this week first,” Weber said. “This will be a gut-check week for our guys. We have to respond from two tough losses.”
The Wildcats are coming off close road losses to No. 25 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State. Though Texas Tech isn’t in their class, it poses more of a threat than it has in recent years.
Behind senior forward Jaye Crockett and junior forward Jordan Tolbert, the Red Raiders have won two conference games, including a home rout over Baylor. They have already exceeded some expectations, but first-year coach Tubby Smith isn’t satisfied. Not after a 74-65 loss to Oklahoma, anyway.
“We would all like to be winning more and playing better,” Smith said. “…We have had two of our worst defensive outings in our last two games. Oklahoma was a poor defensive effort all the way around. We are really having some issues with the way we guard.”
Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield combined to make 15 of 23 shots against Texas Tech, and K-State will try to duplicate that production.
Senior guard Will Spradling is showing signs of improvement, averaging 10 points in his past two games. If he can continue that trend and Thomas Gipson and Marcus Foster play well together, the Wildcats could bounce back with a drama-free win.
That’s what they are hoping for. Two victories this week will make next week that much more refreshing. Anything less, and the grueling schedule might feel ongoing.
“Texas Tech has really battled,” Weber said. “They have already beaten Baylor and a few other people and they have some big, strong guys inside. So that’s a challenge. Then you go to West Virginia. … We are going to have to maintain at home and then get a road win.”