Drastic changes appear on the way for Kansas State’s playing rotation.
From now on, K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber says he will only consider one thing when choosing who to use in games: effort.
“I just want guys that care,” Weber said. “That is all I want, guys that care and want to play for K-State and want to play to win and will play hard.”
Those were in short supply during a 69-55 loss to Texas Christian University on Wednesday at Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center.
This game was a must-win for K-State, the least daunting road test remaining on its schedule and an opportunity to turn a last-second victory over Oklahoma into real momentum. But the Wildcats played with so little energy that the outcome was decided with 20 minutes remaining. TCU led 35-15.
For K-State (13-14, 6-8 Big 12), it was the largest halftime deficit of the season. For TCU (16-10, 3-10), it was the makings of a blowout.
The Wildcats briefly made things interesting in the second half behind an all-energy lineup of Jevon Thomas, Brian Rohleder, Tre Harris, Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams. They started the half on a 13-2 run behind several shots from Harris and hustle plays from Rohleder, a walk-on, and pulled to within six points when Williams hit a free throw to make the score 41-35 with 11:32 remaining, but they could get no closer.
The damage was already done after a dreadful first half in which K-State made four of 25 shots and went the final 7:48 without a point.
TCU was so far ahead that forward Chris Washburn had this to say about K-State’s comeback attempt after leading the Horned Frogs with 17 points and eight rebounds: “I didn’t think much of it.”
More concerning, it took a 20-point deficit to bring out K-State’s maximum effort.
“The intensity and the effort picked up,” Williams said. “I thought in the first half, we were flat, probably the flattest we have been since probably Georgia. They got layups and easy buckets in the first half. In the second half, I think (Rohleder) just came out and sparked us, and we played with a lot more energy.”
Weber sensed the lethargic start coming.
He said he gave K-State players a day off after the Oklahoma victory, thinking the rest would make them more energetic than ever at practice on Monday.
“The game Saturday was one of the best efforts we have had all year, how hard we played,” Weber said. “That is what is so disappointing. You come back and think that is going to be contagious on Monday and you are going to go to war on Monday. Nope. It didn’t happen.”
Rohleder was also pessimistic about this game.
“You kind of want to say it was a hangover from the Oklahoma win,” Rohleder said. “You hate to say it like that, but you come off such a high. We have a lot of games left, and there is a lot we can still accomplish. We have got to come every day and bring max effort no matter who the opponent is and no matter who you are playing.”
TCU, coming off an upset victory of its own against Oklahoma State, prepared much better.
Perhaps TCU can best be described as an improving basketball team, no longer a punching bag but still a long way from contending for the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, it would be a lot closer to that end goal if it played host to K-State more than once a year.
TCU made things look easy, especially in the first half, behind a balanced scoring attack that included 12 points from Karviar Shepherd, 11 points from Kenrich Williams and 10 points from Amric Fields.
“That was as good a first half of basketball as we have played all year,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said.
K-State tried to fight back behind Nino Williams, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and bench points from Harris, who also had 14 points.
“We needed to shake things up,” Rohleder said. “Obviously, we came out to a slow start and they jumped on us early. You just didn’t see the effort out there that you wanted to see. I think coach was just trying to get guys on the floor he knew were going to play hard and get us back in the game.”
But with key players such as leading scorer Marcus Foster and starter Wesley Iwundu spending most of the night on the bench, the Wildcats didn’t have enough fire power to climb all the way back.
That has to change before K-State takes on Baylor on Saturday. Or Weber will start that game with the five players he trusts to play the hardest, regardless of skills.
“It’s pretty simple,” Weber said. “I’m not a genius, by no means. But I have coached a long time, and I know what is right and what is wrong. When guys won’t compete and battle and come to practice every day… you can’t just come once in a while and think you are going to be a great college player. You have to bring it every day.”