Expectations might have finally caught up with the Kansas State basketball team.
The Wildcats entered the season ranked 12th in the national polls and seemed to handle the extra attention that came with that status just fine during a 6-0 start that featured a tournament championship at the Paradise Jam. But things changed in their first true road game of the season last week when they got blasted 83-71 at Marquette.
Markus Howard went off for 45 points and the crowd at Fiserv Forum made life hard on K-State players after the first few minutes. The Golden Eagles could smell a marquee victory over a top 25 team, and they seized the opportunity to grab one.
“The other teams are much more ready than our guys realized,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We were just another team last year. Oh they’re a good team from the Big 12, but they are picked eighth (in the conference). Now you are picked eighth in the country. It’s a different mindset for the other teams. They played at a really high level, the crowd, the energy, the place (was too much for us).”
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K-State fell four spots to No. 16 following the loss. It gets a shot to bounce back on Saturday in another road setting against Tulsa.
It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats respond.
Not only are they trying to move past for their first loss of the season, they are trying to avenge a defeat against Tulsa last season.
The Golden Hurricane beat the Wildcats 61-54 in Wichita last season. Tulsa used a zone defense that night and K-State didn’t know how to respond. K-State players made 4 of 32 shots from three-point range.
“You can make excuses and say, ‘Well, we didn’t make shots.’ But then you have to adjust,” Weber said. “In the game Saturday, we didn’t adjust to how they called the game. That is part of it. That is part of being a mature basketball player. If we’re not making threes then we better throw the ball inside so they can get a foul or a layup and break the monotony of the game.”
K-State shot the ball so poorly against Tulsa last season that players still shake their heads about it today.
“They played a matchup zone, which we think they will use again this year,” Xavier Sneed said. “We just didn’t find the right spots in the zone. We have got to keep moving the ball around and looking inside. We relied on the three too much.”
Tulsa also played with more emotion. That game was played on a semi-neutral court that featured a crowd full of K-State fans, but it didn’t feel like it. The Wildcats allowed their opponent to dictate the way the game was played.
The same could be said about K-State’s loss at Marquette last week. Only one team looked like it was trying to land a marquee victory, and it wasn’t K-State.
“We just didn’t come out with the right emotion,” Dean Wade said. “We didn’t play with any urgency. It was just a wake-up call to everyone. It starts with the seniors and I will take full responsibility for that. We will be back to normal.”