OK, Wildcat Nation, go ahead and take a deep breath. The Wildcats are not the Detroit Lions, and they’re not going to go 0-16 in Big 12 Conference play, but K-State’s first conference victory didn’t come easy.
The Wildcats were barely able to escape the Coors Event Center in Boulder, Colo., with a victory. Before this victory, they were suffering one of the worst four-game losing streaks I had ever seen. They were playing with no heart and no emotion and were being beaten in almost every aspect of every game.
But the biggest reason the Wildcats lost four in a row – other than the fact that they had to play three of the top teams in the Big 12 – is the players were pressing and not allowing the game to come to them.
What I mean by that is this: the Wildcats are a team built on defense, and lately, the defense has just not been there for the Wildcats.
Over the last five games, they have let their opponents shoot 51.9 percent from the field and 47.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. Their last five opponents have even averaged 6.8 3-pointers a game.
When defense is the basis of a team and it stops being effective, it puts too much pressure on a very average offense. It forces players to take contested or poor shots.
The Wildcats do not have the offensive firepower or a go-to player who can go out and score 20 or 30 points on any given night. That is why seven different players have led the team in scoring.
Sophomore guard Jacob Pullen and junior guard Denis Clemente are the two best offensive weapons for K-State.
Pullen is the best offensive weapon K-State has, but he has struggled since Big 12 play began, shooting 18-56 – or 32 percent – from the field. He has only averaged 10.6 points per game. In nonconference games he averaged 14.7 points a game.
Clemente is the closest this team has to a leader. His point production has increased from 11.8 to 14.6 points per game during league play, but his turnovers per game have jumped from 1.9 to 3.2 per game. Clemente needs to take better care of the ball for the Cats to succeed.
Granted, these numbers are a little skewed because K-State played a pretty weak nonconference schedule and has just completed the hardest part of its Big 12 schedule.
Sophomore guard Fred Brown is the only other Wildcat who seems able to score whenever he wants to. But Brown is a very streaky shooter and his confidence gets shattered because of mental lapses on defense, and head coach Frank Martin proceeds to let him and everyone in the arena know it.
But then Brown plays timidly, scared of messing up again. Playing this way is unnatural and causes him to mess up again, usually meaning we won’t hear from him for the rest of the game.
The best way to remedy these problems is for the Wildcats to just relax and play their game. Getting away from this philosophy is what got the Wildcats in this whole mess to begin with.