MANHATTAN — Shane Southwell was predictably upset when he committed two quick fouls during the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament last weekend. They sent him to the bench when he wanted to be on the court helping his Kansas State teammates.
But it wasn’t a total loss. The junior guard, who has played a hybrid forward position most of the season, learned something while he watched from the sideline.
“I have to score more, but I also have to be more aggressive and make more plays,” Southwell said. “That span when I was out in the first half, it changed the course of the game. We weren’t scoring when I was in there, but we were getting off easier shots. That changed once I got that second foul.”
K-State’s offense struggled like never before in that first half. The Wildcats scored a season-low 16 points, making 6 of 27 shots, before losing 70-54. The Jayhawks packed defenders into the lane, making it nearly impossible for top scorers Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez to come off screens and take easy shots in the paint or drive to the basket. K-State needed someone to stretch the defense by making outside shots, but no one could deliver.
Southwell’s presence could have changed that. He makes more than 42 percent of his three-pointers, and is the Wildcats’ leading outside shooter, followed by Martavious Irving and Will Spradling.
Had he been in the game, playing confidently and aggressively, things might have gone differently.
“He spreads defenses, there is no doubt,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “He’s smart. If they have to close out on him, he can pass the basketball. That is one of his better strengths. On the other end they took advantage of him with inside play. A couple people have done that to him lately … but he was tired and had weary legs. Since we changed him in the lineup, it has changed our team, especially on the offensive end.”
Still, he has struggled in recent games. He has made six three-pointers in his past seven games and has only reached double figures once.
It hasn’t helped that Spradling has been cold lately, too. He has averaged barely three points in his past seven games, making a total of six three-pointers.
Whoever K-State meets on Friday in the NCAA Tournament will give their max defensive effort. Improved shooting is a must.
“When we have a whole team that is shooting well we are pretty tough to beat,” Spradling said. “That’s how we have to go into the NCAA Tournament. We have a whole week to rest, get our legs back and find our shooting touch. We will be ready.”
Southwell hopes so.
He doesn’t want to wonder what could have been in the postseason.
“I probably do have to score a little bit more and make more shots,” Southwell said. “Rodney scores no matter what. Now, if we can get a second guy or third guy scoring it opens up the game for everybody. Then we can get out in transition with four guys that can handle or shoot the ball. That’s when we are really hard to stop.”