Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 81-75 loss at Iowa State on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum:
1. The Wildcats need to handle double-teams better on both ends of the court.
Thomas Gipson had an unusually quiet day, scoring four points and grabbing seven rebounds in 28 minutes. His struggles were tied directly to the way he handled double-teams. Iowa State players descended on him every time he touched the ball down low, and he didn’t react fast enough to the extra pressure. He missed five of seven shots, and often held onto the ball too long when teammates were open. Gipson is used to double-teams, but he struggled against them at Iowa State. The Wildcats also failed to effectively double-team Iowa State forwards on defense. Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim faced two, and sometimes three, K-State defenders in the paint. Yet, they combined for 38 points and 13 rebounds.
2. Will Spradling is showing signs of progress, but he needs to play with more confidence.
If there is one positive for K-State to take away from this loss, it is that Spradling finally appears to be taking a legitimate step forward on offense. Days after putting a solid game together at Texas, the senior guard made four of six three-pointers and dished out three assists. He was at his best in the second half, draining three straight perimeter shots in quick fashion to keep K-State in the game. But he oddly seemed reluctant to push his hot streak. With Iowa State up 69-66, the Wildcats ran a play to him out of a timeout. He created separation from his defender, came off a screen, took a pass and squared up for another three. But he didn’t take it. He passed the ball to the top of the key, where K-State worked the ball inside to D.J. Johnson and turned it over. Deandre Kane converted an and-one on the other end, and Iowa State had a 72-66 lead with 4:01 to play. If Spradling can continue scoring about 10 points a night, K-State will benefit. But he needs to be more aggressive.
3. K-State can’t take its next two games lightly.
The Wildcats will definitely be favored at home against Texas Tech on Tuesday, and they probably will be favored at West Virginia on Saturday. They need to take advantage and win both games. There is no shame in losing at Texas or Iowa State, but K-State can’t afford to compound those losses with more setbacks this week. Two victories will put it at 6-3 in the Big 12, and strengthen its status as a NCAA Tournament lock. A split, or two losses, would leave it on the bubble.
Marcus Foster — 8.
Last game: 5.5. Average: 7.
Foster led all scorers with 20 points. He also grabbed five rebounds and had three assists. His issue, as it often is, was with efficiency. He only made seven of 18 shots and turned the ball over five times.
Will Spradling — 7.5.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 6.2.
That’s two good games in a row for Spradling. But he always seems to play well at Hilton Coliseum. His challenge will be continuing his progress in other venues.
Wesley Iwundu — 7.
Last game: 5. Average: 5.5
The freshman forward had an encouraging game, finishing with six points and eight rebounds. He also didn’t lose a turnover. His defense could have been better, though.
Shane Southwell — 6.5.
Last game: 6.5. Average: 6.8.
Bruce Weber was not happy with Southwell after this one. Southwell had 14 points and seven rebounds, but he turned the ball over three times and missed eight shots. Weber also criticized Southwell for passing to Marcus Foster on the wing instead of Omari Lawrence near the basket on a fastbreak with the score tied in the second half. I thought Southwell played decently, and didn’t have an issue with his pass to Foster. If not for Foster fumbling it out of bounds, it might have worked. Southwell did some nice things on offense, but he could have done more on defense.
Jevon Thomas — 6.
Last game: 4. Average: 6.
If the freshman point guard could make layups, he would be a very dangerous player.
D.J. Johnson — 5.5.
Last game: 4. Average: 3.
Johnson played above expectations in both games this week. His steal/transition layup in the second half was a great play.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Thomas Gipson — 5.
Last game: 8. Average: 7.2.
K-State coaches didn’t do him any favors by putting him on the bench for long stretches, but this was not a good game for Gipson. He didn’t handle double-teams well, finishing with four points and seven rebounds.
Nino Williams –4.
Last game: 3. Average: 5.5.
Just when it looked like Williams was becoming a difference-maker off the bench, he has now given K-State nothing in back-to-back games. Four fouls in 12 minutes is too many.
Omari Lawrence — 4.
Last game: 2. Average: 3.4.
The guard scored four points in 11 minutes, and helped K-State by getting to the basket.