Almost two months into the season and Kansas State still has been unable to find consistent effort.
For a team that appeared poised to compete in a competitive Big 12 conference this season, that tops the list of most concerning things entering Wednesday afternoon’s non-conference finale against Georgia at Bramlage Coliseum.
Before playing Georgia, Kansas State (7-5) has already secured its worst start to a season since 2001-02, when it also lost five non-conference games and finished the season 13-16. It hasn’t lost six since the 1989-90 season.
K-State can’t turn its season around in a single game, but it can bury Sunday’s nightmarish loss to Texas Southern with a good performance against a quality team in Georgia (RPI of 17) before Big 12 play begins at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“We’ve put ourselves in a bind,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We show signs we’re a pretty good team at times, then other times we have our struggles. Somewhere in there we’ve got to find some consistency with that.”
Against Texas Southern, the only thing more troubling than the loss itself was the indifference K-State played with for the majority of the game. K-State summoned its best in a 15-4 start to the game, and again during a 12-0 spurt in the second half. But the other 30 minutes featured a lifeless performance.
K-State missed six of its eight free throws in the final two minutes and 12 of 20 for the game. This followed a win over Texas A&M where it also struggled to close out the game, missing 7 of 13 free throws in the final three minutes.
“Pretty sure if people had energy we would have stepped up and made their free throws with confidence,” K-State senior Thomas Gipson said. “I obviously did not, JT (Jevon Thomas) did not, other people didn’t so that is what happens.”
But the lack of energy isn’t just affecting the free-throw shooting, it has also torpedoed an offense that has shown the potential to be above-average. But K-State has rarely been able to string together long stretches of quality offensive play.
Weber’s motion offense has become little more than pass the ball around the perimeter until the end of the shot clock arrives and a desperation shot has to be forced. Without meaningful cuts, passes, and screens, any offense would flounder.
“I think we try to make something happen out of the first action,” Weber said. “You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to make the defense work and that’s what (Texas Southern) did to us. We didn’t want to probe the defense and make them work, we just wanted to make a play. But you make the play after you probe the defense and make it go from one side to the other.”
Asked after the Texas Southern loss about the team’s leadership, Weber’s response hinted at a team disjointed.
One game away from conference play and K-State is scrambling for answers.
“We’ve got to have everybody on the same page,” Weber said. “You’ve got to have leaders, but you’ve got to have followers, too. It’s just disappointing.”
Georgia at Kansas State
When: 3 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
Records: UGA 7-3, KSU 7-5
Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM
Georgia at Kansas State
Georgia (7-3): The Bulldogs have won four straight games, including Saturday’s 86-77 three-overtime win over Mercer. Mercer tied the game with a three at the end of the regulation and led by two with 20 seconds to play in the second overtime.… Coach Mark Fox is a former K-State assistant under Tom Asbury and is a Garden City native. Fox is 92-80 in his sixth Georgia season, 215-123 overall in 11 head-coaching seasons.… Bulldogs director of basketball operations Kent Davison is a 1972 Sterling College grad and was once an assistant at Wichita State under Gene Smithson and head coach at Garden City Community College.
Kansas State (7-5): K-State won the only previous meeting against Georgia, a 82-79 overtime win in the 1987 NCAA Tournament’s first round. A return meeting is scheduled for next season in Athens.… K-State has committed 170 turnovers to opponents’ 163.… Former Wildcat voice Mitch Holthus, now the Chiefs’ play-by-play man, has the ESPNU call with former UMKC coach Rich Zvosec.