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.