‘We have got some soul searching to do’: What’s next for K-State after ninth-straight loss?

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber yells out at his players during the first half of Tuesday's Sunflower Showdown against Kansas inside Allen Fieldhouse. (Photo Courtesy of Evert Nelson)

At this point, Kansas State’s season is getting repetitive. The Wildcats’ consecutive loss tracker is now up to nine, after losing to No. 23 Kansas on Tuesday, 74-51.

But it’s not the losing streak that makes matters worse, it’s the matter in which it is happening. The Wildcats have lost the last four Big 12 Conference games by a combined 119 points — which tallies up to an average margin of defeat of 29.6 points. On top of that, K-State has lost each game by 20-points.

No K-State team in history has done that for four-straight games.

After yet another disappointing loss, senior guard Mike McGuirl was blunt. He does not know what the answer is for this team’s problems.

“I don’t know what the biggest thing is that is holding us back right now,” McGuirl said. “We have got some soul searching to do, myself included.”

It’s a search that could take a while. As a whole, this K-State team doesn’t have an identity. The defense is poor and the offense, at times, is even poorer. The team’s main hustle player, sophomore DaJuan Gordon, is out indefinitely, and there seems to be no end on the horizon — for now at least.

Head coach Bruce Weber has emphasized as of late that he thinks that 60 points are the most points his team can allow in order for the game to be within reach. For a team that averages a conference-worst 62.37 points per game, that’s reasonable.

Earlier in the year against West Virginia, that was the case. The Mountaineers only scored 69 points and the Wildcats were competitive throughout. But a Weber-worst 28 turnovers spoiled the upset attempt. At the end of the day, maybe the defense isn’t the only issue — even if it may be poor.

What could be seen against the Jayhawks on Tuesday was the inefficient offense. The offense continues to take steps backward. The Wildcats showed spurts in their most recent affair, but making just 18 total shots and shooting 34 percent from the field won’t win you games.

As Weber puts it, the struggles from the field hurt his team’s overall spirit.

“When we struggle offensively, it breaks our spirit,” he said.

If that’s the case, then the spirit has been broken for a while. After an impressive offensive performance against Texas Tech on Jan. 5, scoring 71 points, K-State is averaging just 55.6 points per game. If that’s not bad enough, after another inferior shooting night against Kansas, the team’s shooting percentage has dropped to a low 41.7 percent, with their offensive efficiency ranking 197th in the country.

“We aren’t putting points up on the board,” McGuirl said. “So no, our offense is not where it needs to be. I don’t know what the issue is, but we need to figure it out, learn from it and get better.”

It also doesn’t help when the team can’t get its best offense-efficient player going from the field either. Freshman guard Nijel Pack attempted 10 shots and scored 10 points, but being guarded by last season’s National Defensive Player of the Year (KU senior guard Marcus Garrett) is going to slow anyone down.

Against Kansas, Pack wanted to facilitate first to open his shot attempts up — recognizing his assignment against Garrett. He didn’t want to force anything, that’s not the type of player he is.

“I was trying to get my teammates going,” Pack said after the loss. “I felt like if they got going then the defense would focus on them … Then the lanes would open up for me and it would be a whole gang attack.”

The lanes never did open. No one else really attacked. K-State continued to shoot contested threes with little ball movement and when they did get the ball inside, they couldn’t convert. Pack never got going and the offense came to a stand-still.

The Wildcats’ issues prevailed again.

Weber continues to preach to his players to look and send the ball down low to the post. Maybe then it could open up cutting or rotating shooters on the perimeter. Even when they can get open looks out of those sets, the open shots they are getting are from three-point range — which isn’t ideal for a team shooting a conference-worst 29.5 percent from deep.

For Weber, he feels like the offense is what it is, and still believes the answers are through toughness and defense.

“Our offense is kind of what it is,” Weber said. “We have to defend, we have to play tough and we have to rebound if we want to have any kind of chance. And we have to play hard.”

But is the offense just what it is? Maybe, but maybe not. Freshman guard Selton Miguel shot 40 percent from three and was effective all-around as a recruit coming in. This year he’s below 25 percent.

Both Gordon and McGuirl have taken big dips shooting the ball as well. It won’t be easy, but theoretically, it is something that can be fixed — considering they’ve proven to shoot better in the past.

Maybe Weber is right though. Maybe it’s not the team playing hard enough. No one really knows at this point due to the inconsistency throughout.

As McGuirl said previously, whatever it is, the team needs to “figure it out” — especially if the team wants to salvage anything out of the rest of the year.