A model of consistency all season, Kansas State was anything but consistent last Friday in a 63-61 loss to La Salle in action at the Sprint Center in Kansas City in the NCAA Tournanment.
The Wildcats found themselves down by as many as 19 in the first half, and 18 at intermission.
But in the first 13 minutes of the second half, the ‘Cats had taken the lead, but would score only one field goal the rest of the way.
“Honestly, not really,” said KSU coach Bruce Weber when asked if had figured out yet what happened. “The thing that keeps throwing me for a loop is that we were one of the most consistent teams in the country. That was mentioned for the last two weeks … we beat all the teams we were supposed to. La Salle was a tough No. 13 seed, but I remain baffled by the inconsistency that we showed. Even in the second half when we came back, in those final five minutes we stopped making the plays that we had made all year.”
Pausing, Weber continued, “I honestly don’t know if there was a little more pressure playing close to home and we were uptight, or if we took them (La Salle) too casually, or if all the injuries finally caught up with us … or if it was all of those wrapped up. I say that, but we played so well in those first 15 minutes of the second half. It’s hard to figure. It’s why you play the games.”
Kansas State was down by two with 9.6 seconds to go as Angel Rodriguez raced down court to try to create a two-point play for himself, or anyone else in purple.
“I wouldn’t change anything. All year we practiced this situation. If it’s over six seconds, we’re going to go with it,” said Weber. “We did it before this season at the end of a half, or end of a game. We just feel it’s easier to go against a defense that’s not set. It’s something we practice all the time.”
But he did admit, in the final ticks of the clock, he did try to call a time out.
“When nothing looked like it was going to happen, with 3.2 seconds I tried to get a time out. First, I yelled as loud as I could, and then I put my hands up,” said Weber. “That’s a hard time for officials, but you would think it would have been heard or seen. We had already won games in the final seconds at West Virginia and Baylor, so I wish we would have had a chance.”
There were a host of late-season injuries that players played through, which Weber said could have made a difference.
“For three or four weeks I’m not sure we had a full practice,” Weber said. “Will had that bruised sternum from taking a shoulder in the chest; Jordan had his back issues for several weeks; and, Angel will need some procedures done on his wrist due to some cartilage issues, and his knee due to some tendonitis issues. The only good thing about the wrist injury is that it prevented him from practicing, so his knee got a little better.
“I told John Currie going into the Big 12 tournament that I wasn’t sure what we could do, but we played very well in those first two games” said Weber. “They played focused and came through it quite well with the understanding that we never practiced as a full team.”
The year will be remembered as one with the second most wins in a single season at 27, and, ending a 36-year Big 8/12 championship drought.
“As a player, I don’t think you truly appreciate something like that until later and you’re wearing that ring and looking at that banner that’s yours,” said Weber. “That’s when they will really feel it. When they bring their kids back some day and they can say, ‘I was a part of that.’ ”