A disappointing trip to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off reinforced several things about the Kansas State basketball team.
Perhaps most important: The Wildcats need more from their veterans.
The return of junior forward Thomas Gipson, who provided important points and rebounds throughout the in-season tournament, helped them win their final game against Long Beach State. But inconsistent shooting from seniors Will Spradling and Shane Southwell held them back in ugly losses to Charlotte and Georgetown.
Both Southwell and Spradling are averaging fewer than 9 points.
“We’ve got Gip back and he had back-to-back pretty good games,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “It would be nice to get Shane going and get a couple of shots out of Will, also. I’ve said all along if you have to depend on the freshmen it’s hard, but those guys have been pretty good and the most consistent of anybody.”
K-State will try to give leading scorer Marcus Foster and its other freshmen extra support starting at 3 p.m. Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum against Central Arkansas. It is its first game in a week since returning from Puerto Rico. A small crowd is expected, and the opponent doesn’t offer much appeal. But it will be an important matchup.
It is the first of four straight home games. A good showing could provide much-needed momentum before an anticipated game against Mississippi. And a string of victories could boost the Wildcats’ confidence heading into a clash with Gonzaga on Dec. 21 at Intrust Bank Arena.
“Over the next three weeks we have these home games and we have to make progress with practice at home and games at home,” Weber said. “That will be a key if we’re going to make any strides from late December in January.”
A 3-3 start isn’t what K-State had in mind. The Wildcats have a lot of work to do to make a push for the postseason. Right now, they aren’t even on the NIT radar.
The only way that will change is with increased leadership and production from K-State’s veterans. The Wildcats are hopeful they can get both.
“It’s tough and stressful, but the end is all that matters,” Gipson said. “Last year we won nonconference games but a few times we got our butts kicked and we learned from it. That’s what we’re doing right now.”