No. 25 Kansas State resets against Georgia State
Kansas State players aren't standing around clicking their purple heels and chanting, "There's no place like home." But the sentiment is most likely running through the minds of the 25th-ranked Wildcats.
After disappointing road losses at Marquette and Tulsa, coach Bruce Weber's team returns home to face Georgia State (7-3) on Saturday night at Bramlage Coliseum. They look to get things figured out and get back on the right track.
"It's a new season, new team," Weber said. "We have still got to learn and figure some things out. I wish it was a little bit smoother, but sometimes you have to go through some of this to take steps forward."
The Wildcats (6-2) have been struggling with their offense, even in most of their six wins. The two losses saw Kansas State shoot just 41.8 percent and 30.5 percent from the field, scoring just 71 and 46 points, respectively, against Marquette and Tulsa.
Against Tulsa, Kansas State got the ball back with 14 seconds left but couldn't get a good look at the rim and lost 47-46.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Weber said after the loss to Tulsa. "I put on the board 'Find a way to win.' I told them that it would come down to toughness, poise and making a play at the end of the game.
"I anticipated this. I didn't hope for it, but I anticipated it. I thought we would find a way to win. I thought we would get our little run, but we just didn't make the open shots or make the right plays."
Another issue for Kansas State against Marquette was slowing down a hot scorer. Markus Howard scored 45 points, the second-most points ever scored against Kansas State (Siena's Doremus Bennerman went for 51 points in an NIT consolation game on March 30, 1994).
That looks like it could be a problem against the Panthers. D'Marcus Simonds leads the Panthers in scoring at 22 points per game. He scored 23 points to help Georgia State overcome a 21-point halftime deficit and defeat Alabama 83-80. Georgia State also has beaten in-state rival Georgia 91-67.
"I'm just really proud of my guys," Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said after the victory in Tuscaloosa. "We were down at half and had not played well. I told them to go out and leave it on the court in the second half. They gave me everything they had, and I am extremely proud of each and everyone one of them."
The Panthers return seven lettermen, including four starters (Malik Benlevi, Devin Mitchell, Simonds and Jeff Thomas) from a squad that posted a 24-11 overall record and finished second in the Sun Belt with a 12-6 mark.
Georgia State was picked as the preseason favorite in the Sun Belt. Simonds was named the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year and was a unanimous first-team All-Sun Belt selection.
Benlevi (12.7), Kane Williams (11.2) and Thomas (11.1) also average in double figures in scoring.
Kansas State shouldn't be having trouble establishing its identity. The Wildcats start three seniors and two juniors.
The Wildcats return their entire roster from last season's elite eight team. But that cohesiveness has not been there. In Kansas State's loss to Tulsa, starting seniors Dean Wade (1 of 6, two points), Barry Brown (3 of 12, six points) and Kamau Stokes (1 of 12, four points) combined to go 5 of 30 for just 12 points.
Brown (14.3) still leads the Wildcats in scoring, followed by Wade (13.8), Xavier Sneed (12.0) and Stokes (8.5). Wade leads in rebounding at 7.6 per game.
The leaders are at least taking the blame for the two-game losing streak.
"We were not being aggressive," Stokes said after the loss to Tulsa. "We weren't taking open shots and were overly passive at times.
"When we scored, we had good looks. Even a lot of shots we missed we had good looks off of ball movement. We just have to get in the gym and be able to make shots. We have got to learn when the pass and when to shoot."
Kansas State has won 26 consecutive games against non-conference opponents at Bramlage Coliseum since the start of the 2015-16 season.
Updated December 14, 2018