Tag Archives: Kansas basketball

Wildcats fall 59-53 in Bramlage to rival Jayhawks

14 Feb

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Jamar Samuels issued his final challenge to archrival Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night. The Jayhawks had won 35 of the last 38 meetings of the teams. One of Kansas State’s rare wins in the series came last year. While Samuels made a convincing case for a repeat upset, it was not enough.

The senior scored 20 points and snagged 12 rebounds. He helped stymie player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson, who emerged with just 10 points.

“I just wanted to beat them,” Samuels said. “You’ve got a big-time team coming into your home, and it’s a rivalry game, and you want to win.”

The veteran performance of Samuels stood in sharp contrast to the youthful mistakes that plagued them in a 59-53 loss.

Freshman guard Angel Rodriguez, who has buoyed the Wildcats in many recent games, hindered them against the No. 4 Jayhawks by committing seven turnovers.

Kansas State also had a difficult shooting night, converting just 20 of 65 attempts. Rodney McGruder scored 12 points, and Will Spradling added 10. The two combined for 9-of-28 shooting from the floor.

Kansas employed the triangle-and-two defense to slow down a Wildcats offense that already struggled with sluggishness.

“They’re made to get you to stand around,” coach Frank Martin said. “It got the mission accomplished. It got us to stand around, and they slowed us down.”

That said, the Wildcats had myriad opportunities late in the game after battling back from a 28-18 halftime deficit.

With 1:15 to play, McGruder hit a jumper that put the Wildcats within 55-51. They had several opportunities in the next minute, most of which came on mistakes by Tyshawn Taylor. In quick succession, he missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line, turned the ball over and missed another free throw that would have increased the Kansas lead.

Robinson made a pair of foul shots to put the Jayhawks up 57-51.

With 8 seconds left on the clock, McGruder hit another big shot to cut the deficit to four points again. By then, though, it was too late.

“Self-destructed,” Martin said. “That happens to us. When you’ve got grown men playing for you, it makes our guys look like little kids in that moment.”

Kansas State had put itself in position to win, but it could not maintain that stronghold as the game progressed.

The Wildcats launched a 12-4 run out of halftime to climb within two points of the Jayhawks, 32-30. Spradling started the scoring spree with his first basket of the game. Thomas Gipson nailed a pair of free throws, and Samuels incited some much-needed momentum by sinking two 3-pointers.

The emergence of Jordan Henriquez – with an emphatic slam followed by a workmanlike layup – allowed the Wildcats to tie the game at 34 early in the second half. Later, another free throw by Gipson gave Kansas State its first lead, 37-36.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Taylor and a bucket down low by Jeff Withey quickly restored the Jayhawks’ lead, 44-37. With six and a half minutes to play, Kansas led by 10 again, just as it had at the break.

In the first half the Wildcats made just 22.6 percent of their field goals. Samuels and McGruder accounted for all the team’s points save for one basket by Gipson.

“You play a good team like Kansas, when you get a crack, you’ve got to make it,” Martin said. “I told our guys, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. You’ve got an open shot, you’ve got to make it.”

Big 12 Farewell – Basketball Edition

29 Mar

As the elimination of Kansas by Virginia Commonwealth snuffed out the last hope of the Big 12 conference being represented in the 2011 Final Four, here’s a look at the seasons of all the teams in the league. Collectively, the five Big 12 teams given March Madness berths went went 5-5 in this year’s tournament. Keep in mind: this which just ended is the last season that the Big 12 will have 12 teams, at least for the foreseeable future, as Nebraska is leaving for the Big 10 and Colorado is joining the Pac-10.

Kansas: 3-1 in the NCAA tournament, 14-2 Big 12, 35-3 overall In four games of March Madness, the Jayhawks, a  No. 1 seed, never faced a team seeded higher than 9. In the first round, they played 16-seed Boston University, then moved on to face 9-seed Illinois. Because of upsets elsewhere in its region, Kansas faced 12-seed Richmond and then 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth. It looked like the easiest possible route to another national championship. Enter the most colossal upset of the tournament so far. Of course, the Jayhawks are still the Jayhawks, and if the Morris twins stick around for their senior season, the team could make it as far or farther in 2012.

Texas: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 13-3 Big 12, 28-8 overall The Longhorns escaped the distinction of being an early upset with an 85-81 victory over 13-seed Oakland but lost in the waning seconds of its next game, a one-point heartbreaker against Arizona. There was discussion of a questionable call at the end of the game, but here’s my take on that: How many free throws did Texas miss? How many shots did Texas miss? How many turnovers did Texas commit? Each one of those was a missed opportunity. If those had been taken advantage of, the game might not have needed to come down to the final play anyway. While there are certainly bad calls on occasion, officiating is never an excuse for losing, in my opinion. Next season, Texas will be a younger team, as year’s squad had five seniors, but with the leadership of Rick Barnes and the older players that remain, the Longhorns will likely be a tournament team again in 2012.

Texas A&M: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 24-9 overall The Aggies had a very nice season, getting off to a 16-1 start. In Big 12 play, though, the team went on several skids when faced with competition from the better half of the league. It lost four of five games through January and early February, and it lost four of six to end the season. Texas A&M received a bid to the tournament but lost to 10-seed Florida State in the first round. There’s potential here; it will be interesting to see whether the Aggies can continue the momentum of this season with a repeat performance in six months or so.

Kansas State: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 23-11 overall It’s hard to describe the Wildcats’ season without using the roller coaster cliche, considering the team began the season ranked No. 3 in the country and then completely fell out of the rankings as the team’s seniors were suspended, two players quit the team, and K-State started the conference schedule 1-4 … only to rebound with a six-game winning streak to finish the season and receive a 5-seed in the Big Dance. There will be questions about next year’s team, as it will be without Jacob Pullen for the first time in four years, but there were questions about this year’s team, too, and it didn’t turn out badly.

Missouri: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 8-8 Big 12, 23-11 overall The “Will he stay or will he go?”  merry-go-round has finally ground to a halt in Columbia. Head coach Mike Anderson declined a contract extension from the school in favor of taking the same job at the University of Arkansas, where the coach spent 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson and won a national championship in 1994. Leaving gracefully is a hard thing to do, and whether Anderson did so is hard to say. At least, though, he will be somewhere he wants to be, and Missouri can move on to a coach who definitely wants to be in Columbia and is not distracted by the possibilities of going elsewhere.

Colorado: 8-8 Big 12, 24-13 overall The Buffaloes have been recognized as one of those teams – every year, it’s the same story – that should have been included in the tournament field but was not. They beat Kansas State three times this season, and they also vanquished Texas and Missouri – all of whom made it into the tournament easily. If you look at the Colorado home page on ESPN.com, you’ll see a video clip labeled “Dick Vitale on the teams snubbed by the NCAA tournament” and articles in the news section with titles like “How to improve tourney selection process.” More than likely, being a No. 1 seed in the NIT was little consolation. If head coach Tad Boyle and next year’s team (minus the six seniors it had this season) continue on this way, I’d be surprised if the Buffaloes get left out of the tourney in 2012.

Nebraska: 7-9 Big 12, 19-13 overall The Huskers also had an up-and-down season, and like the Wildcats, they struggled some on the road and were nearly unbeatable at home. In Nebraska’s last seven games of this season, it played two ranked teams – Texas and Missouri. It won both those games … but lost the other four. The Huskers lived up to that Big 12 stereotype of being able to beat any team on any given day, but it didn’t happen often enough.

Baylor: 7-9 Big 12, 18-13 overall The Bears had two wins over ranked opponents this season … only it was really just one opponent, Texas A&M, whom they beat in overtime in College Station and by seven points in Waco. Baylor’s on-court issues mirrored those off the court. There was LaceDarius Dunn, mentioned in conjunction with assault (later cleared by a grand jury), and just recently it was decided by the NCAA that freshman Perry Jones -who averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season – will have to miss five games at the beginning of next season if he stays. While the Baylor administration is arguing that it’s getting a raw dealer (see Cam Newton), it is what it is. It could be awhile before the Bears can piece together a decent season.

Oklahoma State: 6-10 Big 12, 20-14 overall For all their struggles, the Cowboys came within four points of a five-game winning streak to end the season. They beat Texas Tech and Baylor in Stillwater, lost 64-61 at Oklahoma, defeated Nebraska 53-52 back in Stillwater, and finished out the regular season with a loss to Kansas by a single point, 63-62, in Lawrence. Tiny-but-mighty guard Keiton Page will be the team’s only senior next season, and five players will be juniors, so depending on who gets playing time, the youth of the team might lead to some inconsistencies.

Texas Tech: 5-11 Big 12, 13-19 overall Honestly, I really like Pat Knight. Having talked to him at Big 12 media day in Kansas City and listened to him at K-State post game press conference this season, I think he has some serious understanding of the game of basketball. With that said, he stated at the beginning of this season that after three seasons, it was a “get-an-extension or get-fired type of year” for him.We all know how that ended, and now Billy Gillispie has signed a five-year deal as head coach of the Red Raiders. According to an ESPN report on the hiring, Gillispie has a good reputation in Texas because before he coached at Kentucky, he helped rebuild the programs of UTEP and Texas A&M. However, he has had his share of problems – if he gets a fourth DUI, as ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb pointed out, his five-year stay with the Red Raiders could be much shorter.

Oklahoma: 5-11 Big 12, 14-18 overall The Sooners’ season ended with a 20-point loss to then-No. 10 Texas, and head coach Jeff Capel was promptly fired. Blake Griffin, recruited by Capel and now an NBA star because of his incredible dunks, contacted ESPN.com to express his feelings about the matter, saying that while he did not profess to know everything about basketball, he recognized Capel as a great coach and felt the university made a mistake by firing him.

Iowa State: 3-13 Big 12, 16-16 By the record, there is no recourse but to assume the Cyclones were bad this year. Maybe more than bad; 3-13 sounds more like it fits into the category of “awful.” If you dig just a bit deeper though, you see a glimmer of hope. Three of Iowa State’s Big 12 games went into overtime; many more the Cyclones lost by single digits. It was head coach Fred Hoiberg’s first season, and the team still challenged the vast majority of its opponents; it wasn’t like the Cyclones rolled over for anyone. It may take a couple years (especially with a considerable number of players graduating now) but this team could be a sleeper down the road.

Scouting Report: Big 12 Tourney

10 Mar

Looking at the stat sheet from KU’s narrow victory over Oklahoma State, there are several numbers that stand out and seem to indicate how the Cowboys stayed close and how other opponents (read: Kansas State or Colorado) could do likewise.

The Jayhawks outrebounded the Cowboys 42-36, but the bigger distinction came on the offensive boards, where KU grabbed 18 and OSU only came away with 8. That translated directly to the second chance points scored for each team: 13 for the Jayhawks, and only 4 for the Cowboys.

Moral of the story? Keep the Jayhawks as far from the glass as possible, especially Marcus Morris and Thomas Robinson, who had 10 and 8 rebounds, respectively, against OSU.

Defense also played a huge role in the Cowboys’ near upset, as they held KU to 35.9 percent shooting from the floor. That low number came largely via the team’s 5-of-25 effort from beyond the arc. Guard Elijah Wood in particular had trouble with that range on Thursday; he was 1-of-8 from the floor, and every single one of those shots came from behind the three-point line.

And the lesson here, again: keep the Jayhawks off the boards. One-foot and two-foot shots are much easier to make consistently than ones 25 feet from the hoop. If a team can deny KU the ball in the paint, it has a better chance of limiting its scoring.

This last little word of advice could be helpful or not on any given day because of the nature of the shot. As K-State head coach Frank Martin always says, free throw shooting is all mental, so the Jayhawks could very well come out and shoot 22-28 in the third round, but here’s the observation from this particular game. KU shot just 57.1 percent from the free throw line against the Cowboys. This type of struggling lends itself to the old adage that instead of giving up an easy layup, go ahead and foul the player hard enough that he has to earn those points at the line.

Lastly, the obvious key to success is this: don’t be intimidated. Sure, KU is the No. 2 team in the country, and it has only lost twice this season, but it’s had plenty of close games that could have gone either way. Now that it’s tournament time, who’s to say that one of those close ones won’t fall the other way?

What Goes Around Comes Around

6 Mar

A week before the NCAA tournament’s Selection Sunday, the Big 12 league office announced this season’s award winners. Among those were Kansas State guards Jacob Pullen and Rodney McGruder. While the news about Pullen is far from shocking, it was a bit more surprising to see McGruder on the list, even though it really shouldn’t be.

Pullen is the first player to be recruited to the Wildcats by head coach Frank Martin and stay at K-State all four years. Certainly, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. The senior is only the second player in Wildcat history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark, and he was the only first-team repeat selection from last season to this season. Oh, and his selection was unanimous.

McGruder, selected to the third team, has earned every bit of that recognition. While some of the older guys get most of the attention and talk more in press conferences and such, this sophomore has quietly made a huge impact on this team, for much of the season leading the squad in both rebounds and three-pointers. McGruder has been Mr. Consistent this season, the only player to start all 31 games. He scored in double figures in 21 of those.

Player of the Year went to KU’s Marcus Morris, and Coach of the Year went to his coach Bill Self. Texas’ Tristan Thompson earned Freshman of the Year, while his teammate Dogus Balbay won Defensive Player of the Year. Newcomer of the Year went to MU’s Ricardo Ratliffe, while Baylor’s Quincy Acy and Colorado’s Levi Knutson shared the Sixth Man Award.

Looking at the honors across the board, it’s interesting to see that the Wildcats are in the company of KU and Texas as far as award-winning players. In just a few days, we’ll get to see just how much all those awards are worth.