Two steps forward and three steps back — that’s what it’s been like for the men’s basketball (5-18, 1-13) team this season.
After a lackluster offensive performance against in-state rival No. 23 Kansas (16-7, 10-52), it’s clear the Wildcats are on the backward slide once again. Kansas State lost to the Jayhawks 59-41 on Wednesday night, which set a new low for points scored at home in the 33-year history of Bramlage Coliseum.
It was also the fewest points any K-State team scored this century. The last time the Wildcats scored fewer was against North Carolina State in a 59-39 loss in 1998.
“I thought the guys were much better prepared this time than the last time,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “Obviously the score isn’t much different, but we talked about playing strong and playing tough. We talked about not being tentative. I thought we battled them … It’s pretty simple, you go 0-for-19 from three before you hit one.”
The Wildcats reached yet another season-worst thanks to a 31 percent shooting night which included shooting 3-of-24 — 12.5 percent — from three-point range. K-State’s starters scored just 17 points on 38 shots — something that’s head-scratching, to say the least.
“We haven’t been good shooting all year, but we’ve been better than that,” Weber said.
The game on Wednesday got so out of hand for K-State in the sense that the team couldn’t buy a bucket. It also doesn’t help that only one player decided to drive against Kansas’ closeouts — sophomore DaJuan Gordon.
“Our other guys settled for threes,” Weber said. “I wish some other guys would’ve been a little more patient and got to the paint. Every time we kept getting in there, you end up with an open shot and we just didn’t make them.”
Gordon was the lone bright spot for the Wildcats, scoring a team-high 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Freshman guard Nijel Pack and senior guard Mike McGuirl, who have been carrying the team offensively as of late, were dismal against the Jayhawks, combining for just 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting.
Gordon said he felt like the team got the shots they wanted, but failed to knock them down.
“It’s just us not making shots. We got what we wanted,” Gordon said. “Everybody got open shots and we just didn’t make them. If we make those shots then it’s a ballgame. That’s all.”
Even though this performance can come as a shock to some, maybe it shouldn’t. It’s known the Wildcats settle for three-pointers a majority of the time — and have a hard time making them. On the year, K-State attempts a three 74 percent of the time when shooting jump shots in half-court sets — the Wildcats take a jump shot in the half-court 57 percent of the time.
How often is the ball going in on those three-point attempts? Just 29.2 percent of the time (136-of-466).
Gordon, the only K-State player with over 35 percent shooting (minimum of five shot attempts), came into the game with a “shooters shoot” mentality he wanted to pass onto his teammates. His teammates obliged, but nevertheless failed.
“Shooters shoot — if you miss, whatever, you’ve just gotta keep shooting,” Gordon said.
Maybe this team simply does not have shooters. But is K-State losing confidence after another disappointing performance from the field? Sophomore forward Antonio Gordon doesn’t think so.
“Not really, we’ve just got to hit them,” he said. “We got good shots, we got good looks, we’ve just got to knock them down.”
If anything else positive can come out of Wednesday’s game, it is the defensive performance at hand, holding a ranked team to 40 percent shooting in the first half and allowing just four threes for the game.
The popular saying goes “defense wins championships,” but without an offense, improvement will continue to be stagnant for this team.
“I thought we battled them. I thought we were very well prepared defensively,” Weber said. “We took them out of a lot of stuff. Then we talked about playing with courage. We kept battling and battling. … Disappointed for the guys. I know how much it meant for them. I thought we were more ready to play. We battled them and defended them.”
At the end of the day, the Wildcats continue to build on a program-worst losing streak which now stands at 13-straight. With just a 22 percent chance to beat TCU on Saturday, it’s hard to see this team winning another game if it continues to shoot this poorly.
For Gordon, a final push to end the season is all about going back to the drawing board.
“Even scoring that bad and we just lose by that much, it just lets us know that we are right there and we’ve just got to make shots,” Gordon said. “Stay in the gym, continue to stay in the gym. Go up there with the coaches and watch film and see what we had open that we didn’t take. And just continue to take what the defense gives us.”