K-State can’t hang in 2nd half, falls to Gonzaga

It wasn’t pretty, but Kansas State isn’t ready to get worried.
Not this early in the season.

Not even after the Wildcats’ second big test of the
non-conference slate ended in another disappointing finish, this
time a 68-52 loss to No.14 Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Kelly Olynyk dominated inside with 20 points and Gonzaga
rebounded from its first loss of the season with an impressive
victory over the Wildcats, who were looking for their first
signature win under new coach Bruce Weber.

”It’s a long season, a lot can happen,” Weber said after the
game and not long after he was issued a technical foul for yelling
at the officials in the second half. ”We just got to go back and
keep getting better, hopefully get over the hump sooner than
later.”

Hopefully, for the Wildcats, that’s the case with a game against
No. 5 Florida looming large next weekend. For that game to go
differently than Saturday night, Kansas State will have to find
second-half offense, something it also lacked in its game against
Michigan in late November.

Kansas State shot 6 of 22 from the field after halftime on
Saturday night, as Gonzaga got out in transition and broke open
what was a one-point game at intermission.

”Obviously, we have to get better on offense, that was our
biggest thing tonight,” guard Will Spradling said. ”As long as we
get better on offense we should be fine.”

Kansas State was without the usual offensive lift of Rodney
McGruder, the team’s leading scorer, who was held scoreless until
midway through the second half and finished with four points. Weber
chalked up McGruder’s struggles to good defense and his senior
guard’s inability to pull the trigger when he had open shots.

”That’s about as good a defense I’ve seen a Gonzaga team
play,” Weber said. ”They locked in on Rodney. We probably didn’t
screen as well as we need to do to help him get open, but he’s also
got to shoot open shots when he has opportunities.”

Angel Rodriguez led Kansas State (7-2) with 14 points, but the
3-point shooting that kept Kansas State hanging around in the first
half disappeared during the final 20 minutes. The Wildcats shot 1
of 6 on 3-point attempts in the second half. Rodriguez had only two
points after the break.

Making their annual trip to Seattle, Olynyk and the Bulldogs
(10-1) controlled the interior and wore down the Wildcats in the
second half. Olynyk’s highlight was a rattling, one-handed slam
with about 9 minutes left that drew a technical foul for screaming,
but also gave the Bulldogs a 14-point lead.

Olynyk made 10 of 13 shots, falling just short of matching his
career high of 22 points when he fouled out with 4:56 left. Gonzaga
outscored Kansas State 38-12 in the paint.

”He’s a smart player, one that can hurt you in a lot of
different ways passing, driving and scoring,” Gonzaga coach Mark
Few said. ”I think that’s probably the biggest thing – he went
from a guy who loved to just play out there on the perimeter to a
guy who is 7-feet tall and can use those skills down low.”

After using Guy Landry Edi on McGruder for most of the first
half, the Bulldogs stuck Mike Hart on the Wildcats’ scoring leader
to start the second half. He was immediately flustered, committing
turnovers on Kansas State’s first two possessions and Gonzaga
started the half on a 9-0 run to take a 36-26 lead with 16:28
left.

Kansas State briefly stemmed the run, but Edi’s 3-pointer with
12 minutes left pushed the lead to a dozen and Olynyk’s dunk that
drew the technical capped another 11-2 spurt by the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga’s lead reached 21 in the final minutes.

I didn’t think we were going to go undefeated this year playing
the schedule we have but we needed to get back to who we are on the
defensive end,” Few said. ”We were there tonight. I’m not going
to make any proclamations, but we got back to getting our feet
under us and guarding the way we need to guard to be
successful.”

Gonzaga tried to pull away early with a 10-0 run late in the
first half to take a 23-17 lead, but led just 27-26 at the break
thanks to the shooting of Rodriguez and Spradling. Kansas State
sustained a big blow late in the half when forward Nino Williams
crashed hard to the floor with an apparent right shoulder injury.
He was helped to the locker room and did not return in the second
half. Williams had two points and three rebounds in 6 minutes.