MANHATTAN — There are times when good teams play inferior opponents then have to force themselves to pick apart aspects of an easy win.
Kansas State's basketball team had a ready-made failure to address Friday after its 84-60 win over Texas Southern.
The Wildcats were cruising to a win by however many points they wanted. Then the defense lapsed, the Tigers started making shots and the big blowout didn't quite happen.
Texas Southern made 14 shots in a row during one stretch in the second half, turning a blowout into a semi-respectable result during the final seven minutes.
KSU played without forward Jamar Samuels, who played in all five previous games but sat out Friday. Coach Frank Martin would not discuss Samuels' absence.
The Wildcats could have used another big body in the paint, as Texas Southern made its too-little, too-late run.
"Guys were shooting open layups, uncontested layups," Martin said. "We've got guys who think they're playing in a rec-center league and don't do their jobs."
The poor stretch followed 33 minutes of what Martin said was "as well as we've played." K-State's defensive superiority started after Texas Southern made its first four shots and grabbed an 8-4 lead.
The run was stopped by a Curtis Kelly basket, then the Wildcats kept scoring and Southern stopped. A Rodney McGruder three-pointer gave KSU a 9-8 lead, which it continued to build while keeping the Tigers' possessions scoreless.
The Tigers went more than 10 minutes without a basket, managing just a free throw until K-State built a 28- 9 lead. Texas Southern didn't get an offensive rebound until the 12:13 mark of the first half. The Wildcats made 7 of their first 11 shots and turned four offensive rebounds into eight points.
"I think we did a great job attacking the boards," K-State forward Curtis Kelly said. "We were aggressive on the boards and it affected them."
Martin said K-State’s 20-10 advantage on the offensive glass was a result of how well the Wildcats executed the offense. They didn't always shoot well from the perimeter, but the offensive rebounds and ball movement created plenty of chances in the paint.
Kelly, Wally Judge and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts all had at least nine points and five rebounds. Freddy Asprilla chipped in with six points and eight rebounds.
"It means you've got people taking shots within the offense," Martin said of K-State's rebounding edge. "When you take shots that don't move the defense, offensive rebounding becomes more difficult because the defense can box you out."
Two members of Kansas State’s starting backcourt scored in double figures, including Jacob Pullen, who bounced back from a disappointing game on Tuesday against Duke to lead the Wildcats with 16 points. Pullen had seven assists, four steals and one turnover.
"I put Tuesday behind me after Tuesday, when I woke up Wednesday morning," Pullen said. "I'm a competitor and I hate the fact that we lost. Today was a chance to win another basketball game."
Rodney McGruder added 10 points, matching Pullen's two three-pointers. Nick Russell scored two points but played just three minutes after becoming ill on the bench. Martin said Russell was likely headed to the hospital to get an IV.
"He's got some kind of bug and I'm not sure what it is," Martin said.
K-State’s biggest lead was 70-31. Aaron Clayborn scored for Texas Southern with 7:31 to go and it was a long time before the Tigers missed again — more than six minutes, in fact. While Texas Southern got hot, the Wildcats were missing shots and committing turnovers.
"Same thing that always gets us — immaturity, lack of concentration," Pullen said. "We went away from what we were doing early in the game, making them take tough shots."