Bruce Weber didn’t deliver a speech before Kansas State took the floor for a basketball game against TCU on Tuesday at Daniel- Meyer Coliseum.
He thought an illustration would be more direct. So, with his players watching, he circled the number “25” on the dry-erase board inside K-State’s locker room. Then he asked a question.
“We got in the top 25. Do you want to stay there?” Weber said. “From Northern Colorado to now we have made such major improvement. Now let’s see what we can do and if we can stay there.”
The motivational tactic worked. The No. 25 Wildcats defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 65-47 for their 10th straight victory.
K-State, 12-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12, heads into its next game on Saturday at Kansas riding its longest winning streak since 2009.
The Wildcats hope the momentum they have gained since the start of December will carry over into the remainder of the season, but it was hard to tell whether a relatively easy win over TCU, 9-5 and 0-2, was a sign of good things to come or a bad omen.
On one hand, K-State won by 18 points while committing a season-high 18 turnovers. That’s not easy to do, especially in a road conference game. The Wildcats did it behind a dominant rebounding effort that saw them snare 37 boards and limit the Horned Frogs to 21. They also held TCU under 50 points for the first time this season.
“They are not a good rebounding team,” K-State’s Thomas Gipson said. “They play hard and everything, but we really wanted to emphasize our rebounding against them. I feel like we did a good job with that.”
Gipson scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Marcus Foster scored 16 points, and Shane Southwell had an all-round good game with seven points, six rebounds and four assists.
TCU coach Trent Johnson was blown away by the group effort.
“They gave us the ball 18 times,” Johnson said. “They turned the ball over a lot, but it did not affect the way they played on the other end. What does that say about them? It says they are a mentally tough team.”
Those were all positives.
But there were negatives, too. Will Spradling committed two quick fouls and barely played in the first half, TCU confused K-State early with a zone defense and the Wildcats gave the ball away nearly once every minute in their first true road game.
The Horned Frogs took an early lead behind the play of Amric Fields, who scored 14 points, and Kyan Anderson, who finished with 12 points.
K-State has traveled as far away as Puerto Rico and New York this season, but it needed time to get accustomed to a sparsely filled venue on Tuesday.
“This was honestly our first true road game and I feel like the freshmen or the young guys were kind of anxious,” said Gipson, who grew up in nearby Cedar Hill, Texas.
“I was anxious too, because I was playing at home and I wanted to make plays. I had early turnovers. But I feel like we handled things pretty well. We just have got to be better at jumping on them early,”
That could have made it a different game.
It wasn’t until Southwell buried a three-pointer midway through the first half that gave K-State a 43-36 lead that the Wildcats started to pull away.
But pull away they did, ending on a 25-11 run.
“We got some key stops, too,” Southwell said. “Before that they were making a lot of easy shots in the paint. We had to get some stops, but that shot helped spread the lead a little bit. They didn’t get back into the game from then on. Their spirit was down after that.”
Johnson suggested that his team quit.
“We stopped competing,” he said. “It’s real disappointing. We have to do a better job competing against teams at a high level and against good players.”
Weber walked off the floor in higher spirits. Even though K-State’s victory lacked style points, it was a road win in Big 12 play.
Those are always important.
“We got a road game under our belt, a true road game,” Weber said. “Now things get a little tougher.”