Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber joked that he wants his team to make every shot and 90 percent of its free throws in its final non-conference game.
Even if Weber could order up such a stat line for Monday’s game against South Dakota (6-8), it’s best not to mislead. He knows the Wildcats (10-2) will need to win with defense this season. Playing pretty on offense isn’t their thing.
“That is who we are,” Weber said after Saturday’s 52-44 win over UMKC. “We are a good defensive team and a good rebounding team and when we make shots, we can beat anybody in the country.”
The Wildcats proved that with a win over Florida. The game against UMKC showed almost any team can stay close when K-State struggles to score. It made 17 of 53 shots (32.1 percent) and 16 of 31 free throws (51.6 percent). The absence of guards Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving contributed to the offensive problems. With them out due to injury, Will Spradling ran the offense, instead of devoting his shooting skills to helping spread the court.
Rodriguez is suffering from tendinitis and Weber planned to play him a few minutes against UMKC, until travel issues delayed his return from Christmas break until Friday and limited his treatment. He will likely return for Monday’s game. Irving injured his knee in Friday’s practice and his availability is not certain.
“We moved and cut very well against Florida,” Weber said. “We have got to screen and move. Will is one of our best movers and cutters and we did not have him going.”
Monday’s game offers the Wildcats a tuneup before opening Big 12 play on Saturday against Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum. The injuries dealt Weber a setback in his attempt to establish a starting lineup and a rotation. The Wildcats managed only five bench points against UMKC and three starters needed to play 32 or more minutes.
“I would like a starting seven, a starting eight,” he said. “If we can get to where we have a starting eight, then we have a chance to really compete in the Big 12. I thought (Irving) made great progress against Florida. He competed, not only making shots, but he guarded and competed, got on the floor.”
Regardless of how K-State’s offense improves, Weber can count on defense. The Wildcats are holding opponents to 38.8-percent shooting and 26.9 percent from three-point range.
“You can’t let your offense dictate, you can’t give in, you can’t break down,” he said. “We have to guard. We’re good at it. We showed last week, if we can play at the right level, we can be OK offensively enough to win.”