If ever there was a team in need of some good home cooking, it’s No. 12 Kansas State, losers of two consecutive games, both on the road.
The Wildcats return home to Manhattan, Kan., on Saturday afternoon for a game against No. 19 Iowa State.
Iowa State (17-8, 8-5 Big 12) and K-State (19-7, 7-6) are part of a six-team logjam atop the Big 12 Conference, all bunched within two games of each other.
The Cyclones have been spinning their wheels, unable to string together two consecutive wins since a six-game win streak in early January.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats are in a free fall. They’ve lost five of their last seven games and are in danger of eliminating themselves from any chance at a share of the regular-season title.
The latest K-State setback came Tuesday against Oklahoma, which remains tied for last in the conference at 3-10. The Sooners used a 12-0 run early in the second half to put the Wildcats away in a 79-65 defeat in Norman, the Wildcats’ fifth straight road loss in the Big 12.
It left head coach Jerome Tang pretty upset.
“They kicked our butts, and they deserve all the credit in the world for that,” Tang said after the game. “We did not play hard enough to deserve to win tonight.”
The biggest problem has been the defense. K-State allowed the Sooners to hit 11 of 23 3-point attempts (47.8 percent) despite coming into the game allowing opponents to hit just 28.6 percent, best in the Big 12 and 12th-best in the nation.
“So far, effort hadn’t been an issue with our guys,” Tang said. “Execution maybe at times. But effort hadn’t been an issue. Tonight, effort was an issue.”
Further, over the last seven games, Markquis Nowell has averaged 5.3 turnovers per game, well above his season average of 2.9 before that stretch.
Iowa State has struggled on the road this season, going just 2-6 away from Ames. They snapped a two-game losing streak, including their only home loss of the season, with a 70-59 victory over No. 22 TCU on Wednesday.
Iowa State jumped out to a 10-0 run to start the game and led 15-2 with 14:33 remaining in the first half. TCU nearly erased the lead with a 12-0 run of its own before Aljaz Kunc connected on his second of four first-half 3s in the half, putting ISU up 18-14.
The Cyclones went into the break leading 35-24 as Kunc knocked down a 3-pointer with 0:32 before halftime. Kunc finished with a career-high 22 points. Iowa State then opened the second half with a 12-2 run.
“Where I gauge it is how we start games defensively, and then how we start the half,” Iowa State coach TJ Otzelberger said following the game. “We set the tone and I felt like starting the game we had some turnovers, and then really coming out of halftime, that’s something we hadn’t done as well.We’ve more traded baskets with people.
“And for them to score two points, for us to start with three stops or whatever it was, and have that two points speaks to being focused, being intentional in dictating things defensively.”
–Field Level Media