MANHATTAN — Bruce Weber might want to consider a new name for Kansas State’s motion offense.
Through nine games, the Wildcats are one of the nation’s lowest-scoring basketball teams, ranking last in the Big 12 in points (65.3), field-goal shooting (40.8 percent) and three-point shooting (27 percent). Nationally, they rank no higher than 308th in those statistical categories.
Outside of an 87-54 victory over Central Arkansas, K-State hasn’t scored more than 71 points. That lack of production has led to three early losses and several close victories against unheralded opponents.
The biggest problem can be traced back to the name of Weber’s offense, which he has been teaching throughout his long career. It lacks movement.
“This is a game where you have to keep moving the basketball and make the next play until they break down,” Weber said. “You have got to move side to side, you have got to curl, you have got to use back screens. ... You have to keep cutting and moving.”
Indeed, constant moving is the key to a motion offense. When it is correctly executed, a steady stream of screens, cuts and passes creates open shots and easy points. When it is poorly executed, players become stagnant and struggle to score.
Too often, K-State players have reverted to simply standing around when opponents challenge them or switch to a zone defense.
“We have got to get moving more,” freshman guard Marcus Foster said. “Sometimes when offense isn’t going our way, we just sit there. We have a lot of young guys and people playing new roles. We have to get moving from the start.”
Otherwise the only players with open shots are guards open on the perimeter. That hasn’t helped the Wildcats so far. Take away Foster, who has led the team by making a pedestrian 21 of 59 shots from beyond the arc, and K-State doesn’t have anyone capable of spreading defenses. Will Spradling, Shane Southwell and Nigel Johnson, three of the team’s best other shooters, have made 22 of 92 from three-point range.
If those shots start falling, K-State’s offense could improve quickly. But the Wildcats have the look of a poor-shooting team. It even struggles from the foul line, shooting 62.7 percent.
“Overall, we do have to shoot a better free-throw percentage if we want to close out games,” junior forward Thomas Gipson said. “If everybody made their free throws we wouldn’t have to worry about being up by two with two seconds left. We all have to play our part on that one.”
Until then, the Wildcats will focus on getting the ball to where they are more effective, with Foster shooting on the wing, Southwell taking mid-range shots and Gipson finding openings under the basket.
Weber also singled out Spradling following a narrow victory over South Dakota earlier this week, and challenged him to do more with the basketball in his hands. Though he does a nice job of keeping the offense flowing and avoiding turnovers, that is no longer enough. He has to score, too.
K-State’s offense will try to show progress in all those areas when it takes on Troy at 5 p.m. Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum. But that can’t happen until Weber sees improvement behind closed doors.
“Everybody knows we have to get better,” Weber said. “You do that in practice on a daily basis. Right now we probably don’t go as intense as we need to in practice. I hope that changes sooner than later.”