By now, Kansas State is used to losing road games in heartbreaking fashion. The Wildcats have now lost five straight away from home in varying ways.
Still, a 87-73 loss to Baylor (in double overtime) at the Ferrell Center on Saturday had to feel like a punch to the gut. K-State was in control the whole way, leading by nine at halftime, by 10 midway through the second half and by three with 24 seconds remaining, but it couldn’t close the door.
At 17-8 and 7-5 in Big 12 play, the Wildcats still have a strong NCAA Tournament. They could afford a loss. But this was a missed opportunity. They were in great position to put an end to their road woes (their only road win of the season came at bottom-feeder TCU) and will continue to carry the “home warriors” label.
A few thoughts from the game: Nino Williams may have earned a spot in the starting lineup. The junior guard torched Baylor’s zone defense for a career-high 20 points. He also had eight rebounds. Williams played in place of an injured Shane Southwell, who watched the game with a walking boot on his left foot. Southwell has been in a month-long slump. Perhaps it is time for Weber to give Williams a shot in the permanent starting lineup.
Also, K-State had several breakdowns at the end of regulation. Marcus Foster missed a free throw that could have put the game out of reach, the Bears grabbed three offensive rebounds on their final possession and Brady Heslip was left completely wide open on his game-tying three. I wonder if some of that could have been prevented. Bruce Weber told his players to back off during Foster’s second free-throw attempt and to drop back into defensive stances. Why? An offensive rebound would have meant more to the Wildcats.
Player Ratings (Big 12 games only):
Nino Williams — 9.
Last game: 7. Average: 6.2.
K-State needed a big game from Williams with Southwell on the bench. Boy, did he deliver. Williams played within himself, taking good shots on the baseline, and had 20 points and eight rebounds. Maybe he deserves a shot at the starting lineup.
Marcus Foster — 8.5
Last game: 9. Average: 7.3.
Foster didn’t shoot as well as he has recently, making six of 18 from the field, but he still managed to score 18 points and send out a whopping 10 assists. The freshman guard was disappointed he missed two key free throws, but he played well overall.
Will Spradling — 7.
Last game: 9.5. Average: 6.8.
Spradling missed eight shots, including six of seven from three-point range, but he finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists. The Bears suffocated him on defense and made it hard for him to get good looks. Weber might want to consider calling more plays for him.
Thomas Gipson — 7.
Last game: 7.5. Average: 7.1.
Fouls prevented Gipson from having a big impact on the game. He had 12 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. He also fouled out.
D.J. Johnson — 6.
Last game: 8. Average: 4.2.
Johnson once again took advantage of a defense that didn’t seem interested in stopping him. He scored eight points, all off easy layups, and also grabbed four rebounds. Too bad he fouled out in 23 minutes.
Omari Lawrence — 5.5.
Last game: 8. Average: 4.2.
The senior guard played 30 minutes, which was a big plus. But he only had five points and three rebounds.
Jevon Thomas — 5
Last game: N/A. Average: N/A.
The freshman point guard returned to K-State’s rotation on Saturday, scoring a point and sending out five assists. He played well in spurts, but his defense could have been better.
Wesley Iwundu — 1.
Last game: 6. Average: 5.5
Iwundu brought very little to the floor in 12 minutes of action. He was held scoreless.