MANHATTAN — With back-to-back victories in foul-filled games, Kansas State clearly has enough depth and poise to win despite foul trouble.
Still, the Wildcats would like to hear fewer whistles.
That will be one of their primary goals when they face Texas Tech on Monday at Bramlage Coliseum. They have encountered an ugly amount of fouls in their last two games, and while they haven’t hurt the bottom line they are becoming a nuisance.
“It takes a toll out on you,” sophomore K-State forward Thomas Gipson said. “It makes you think, what are we going to do now? But coaches just tell us to focus and not worry about the refs.”
That hasn’t been easy lately. Last week, the Wildcats committed 28 fouls against West Virginia, allowing the Mountaineers to slow the pace of the game and hang around later than they should have. Then they were whistled for 26 fouls against Texas, preventing them from pulling away for good in the second half.
They won both games by an average of 11 points, with K-State coach Bruce Weber getting creative with lineups and using his bench players in new situations, but life would have been easier without so many players heading to the bench with multiple fouls.
“We have got to be careful on fouls,” Weber said. “We have to adjust when they are calling it tight. We need Angel (Rodriguez) in the game. We need everybody in the game. So we have got to do a better job of maybe backing down sometimes when they are going at us.”
That would help. The majority of K-State’s unnecessary fouls have come away from the ball and quickly into defensive possessions. Rodriguez, one of the best defenders on the team, can take too many risks. Senior forward Jordan Henriquez and Gipson can get caught pushing inside.
“We pressure the ball a lot. That is our main key. Fouls are going to come with that,” Gipson said. “We just have to be a lot smarter with the fouls we make.”
The Wildcats are cautiously optimistic that will happen. After all, they have avoided widespread foul trouble in most of their games.
“The last two games, the refs have been more strict,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve just got to adjust. That’s where (Weber) does a great job during timeouts, telling us how the game is being called.”
There is no telling how officials will handle K-State’s game against Texas Tech, but as long as the Wildcats value staying out of foul trouble they should be able avoid excessive whistles.
The Red Raiders are struggling under interim coach Chris Walker, with their only Big 12 victories coming over TCU and Iowa State. The Wildcats won 68-59 at United Spirit Arena three weeks ago with a sub-par effort.
Winning the rematch is their top priority. They simply hope to avoid fouls while doing so.
“Our goal is to go 1-0 and win. That’s all that matters,” Weber said. “They took it to us at their place. We had to fight hard to win. They play as hard as anybody. We’ve got to be ready to play, but it would be nice not to foul.”