COLUMN: Cats must improve free throws


Several things went wrong for the K-State men’s basketball team during Saturday’s loss to the Kansas Jayhawks.

But the biggest problem has been affecting this team all season long.

It was only a matter of time before the Wildcats’ poor free-throw shooting caught up to them.

KU made 27 out of 35 free throws during their 85-74 victory over K-State.

The Jayhawks made 11 more free throws than the Wildcats did.

That is 11 extra points the Jayhawks got uncontested and with the clock stopped.

As much as I would like to blame the referees for the amount of free-throw attempts the Jayhawks got, I just can’t do it. I do believe there were some bad calls, but that happens in every game. The refs are only human. Overall, the game was officiated evenly for both sides.

The truth is there in the statistics.

The Wildcats were called for 25 personal fouls and the Jayhawks were whistled for 24 fouls.

The difference is K-State fouled the Jayhawks on shot attempts, which led to a high number of free-throw attempts.

KU made two significant runs during Saturday’s game. The first one was in the first half, when the Jayhawks battled back into the game. In that run, KU made five of nine free throws.

The second run was during the second half. This was the run where KU gained and extended their lead. The Jayhawks made 22 of 25 free throws during the second half, which ended up being too much for the Wildcats to overcome.

For the year so far, K-State is 402-623 or 64.5 percent from the free-throw line. K-State’s opponents are 442-629 or 70.3 percent.

The Wildcats’ 64.5 percentage ranks them as dead last in the Big 12 Conference in that category. What is more troubling is the only teams to have shot more free throws then K-State are Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

And it’s not like K-State isn’t getting any calls — the Wildcats have been called for 525 fouls while their opponents have been whistled for 539 fouls.

Being successful at the foul line is just something a team has to do to win games.

Look at the last five national champions.

In 2008, KU won 28 games and shot 70.2 percent from the line. Florida had back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2006.

They won 26 games in 2007 on 69 percent free-throw shooting and won 24 games on 74 percent.

North Carolina won the championship in 2005 — 26 wins and shot 72 percent from the free-throw line. In 2004, Connecticut shot just 62 percent but was still able to win 24 games on its way to the championship.

The proof is right there in the numbers. A big key to winning games is to be good at free throws.

And now with the loss to KU, K-State is officially back on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Luckily the remaining games are all winnable, but the Wildcats must continue to play defense without fouling and take advantage of opportunities at the foul line to make it to the tournament.