Texas came off of 8 straight halves (or 16 quarters if it was literally any other level of organized basketball) of high quality execution and got to face a team it beat by 20 earlier in the season. Sure, Kansas State had Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes back, but they lost Cartier Diarra in the interim and Texas came into the game sporting a 4-1 home conference record. Well, Kansas State came into the game sporting a 4-1 road conference record and they left with a 5-1 road conference record after beating Texas 71-64, further solidifying their status as the primary challenger to Kansas’ conference title streak. I have to give Kansas State credit, they’re more legit than I gave them credit for....well, the last 2 seasons. I’m not sure if Bruce Weber is comfortable with this team as it will give him way more job security than he usually enjoys. Weber seems to thrive when he’s just about to get fired - before their Elite Eight run last year, grumbling abounded from the Wildcat faithful - so a team that gets him breathing room is sort of anathema to Weber’s preferred state. I’m surprised he hasn’t benched Dean Wade for not shaving his sideburns or something.
One of the reasons I think Bruce Weber likes making things hard on himself: when he played man defense, Texas got into the paint regularly. This was especially true in the first half where Kerwin Roach II lived in the lane; Courtney Ramey and Matt Coleman were able to drive off the bounce against man defense as well. Texas shot only eight threes in the first half because Kansas State guards weren’t able to stay in front of them and the Wildcat bigs were more concerned with lobs to Jaxson Hayes than help defense. Texas feasted in the paint because Kansas State was really trying to deny the lob. To that point, one of the good adjustments made early in the game was Texas recognizing the lob denial and focusing on getting guards to the rim. If the big isn’t going to help or hard hedge against the drive, a guy like Roach can thrive.
One of Rick Barnes’ favorite sayings was “we want to make more free throws than they take”. Texas converted 18-26 (69.1%) from the line, while Kansas State only shot 7-12 from the line. It would have been nice to make a couple more of those free throws, but getting to the line that much is another indicator of Texas’ overall ability to get into the paint.
Coleman did a good job forcing the issue in the first half and portions of the second half, finishing with 9 points, five assists, and two turnovers. It would have been nice to see him continue the early aggressiveness he had getting to the rim, but the gameplan shifted to try to maximize Roach’s ability to break down his defender. The tempo of the game slows down when he’s not in transition and I don’t know how much of that is him versus the coaches trying to get their offense going; one of the things the last four games have shown is that Coleman is dynamite in the open court when he’s confident, and I’m hopeful they continue to try to push tempo when it makes sense.
Dylan Osetkowski Made a Three
I swear it happened. There’s video of it somewhere.
Kerwin Roach II
On the plus side for Snoop, he lived in the lane in the first half and his body control allows him to hit shots in the paint most others can’t. On the negative side for Snoop, he had zero assists and six turnovers, several of which were self-induced. Here’s the thing: if Snoop can get to the rim, he’s good. If he can set his feet and take a catch & shoot three, he’s good. Everything else is highly variable, and when Kansas State went into a 2-3 zone it took away at least one of his successful plays. (I’ll get into why this was viable for the Wildcats shortly.) As good as Roach is in certain ways, he’s also very limited in others, and if Ramey isn’t hitting his shots then Roach gets easier to defend.
Oh right, he’s still a freshman. Ramey was 3-5 from two and grabbed six rebounds, which were solid. On the other side of the ledger he was well below-average shooting from three (1-5) and he had all of one assist on the night. Tonight felt like Ramey might have been a touch on the wrong side of that balance between enabling others and looking for your own shot, though to be fair a couple of those threes were wide open. He also started chirping at his teammates late in the first half and early in the second, which may have contributed to his lack of minutes in the second half. When you play with an edge like Ramey does, sometimes it boils over. Shaka talked in a recent interview about how he has had to communicate how to understand the difference between pushing your teammates and just yelling at them; Ramey is used to being the unquestioned leader of his team and he’s not that here (yet). This is one of those learning curves people don’t talk about a ton, learning how to become a leader at the next level. I imagine Ramey will become that sooner than later, but there are bumps in the road as he figures it out.
Febres is now 6-22 since the Kansas game, or a shade over 27%. Teams are keying on him and this is the next step in him learning how to produce at the D-I level. One of the many ways in which Ramey’s evolution the last couple of weeks has covered a number of sins is that his three-point shooting has obscured Febres’ struggles. Febres isn’t quite at 100% as of late and it’s affecting his shooting a bit, but he’s still shooting 37% from three in conference play so there is reason to believe he’ll turn it around.
I honestly don’t know why Bruce Weber left the 2-3 zone in the second half, except maybe hubris. The Wildcats’ comeback was sparked partly by their offense shooting well but mostly by the 2-3 zone flummoxing Texas for a significant chunk of the second half. Texas wasn’t able to shoot Kansas State out of the zone and they weren’t able to penetrate well enough to reliably collapse the zone. Texas has been up and down against the zone this year and tonight they were down. This was the primary reason Texas lost in my opinion, though Texas had enough issues defensively in the second half it wasn’t the only problem.
Texas had four good defensive performances in a row, and there were portions of the first half where Texas played solid defense. Maybe it was the analytics-breaker Barry Brown who screwed up the defense, but Texas couldn’t get enough stop when it needed. Kansas State scored 1.18 PPP which is well above their norm. Some you can attribute to Kansas State having an uncharacteristically good night from three, but Kansas State had some really interesting actions within their offense that took advantage of Texas’ help defense. Also, having Dean Wade helps a lot.
The first half was more like the Texas of the last two weeks, the second half was more like the Texas of earlier in the season. While Texas is still on the right side of the bubble - and with a fair amount of cushion - they need to regroup and take care of business against Oklahoma State at home this weekend. The Cowboys are still fighting hard so this won’t be a team who is likely to fold, and Texas needs to even this series on the year to make more progress towards locking up a NCAA Tournament bid. The tip time on Saturday is 12 PM CT & the game is on CBS.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Dax J.