A more mature Marcus Foster sparks another K-State win

Though his path to the basket often was blocked, Marcus Foster didn't get frustrated against the Red Raiders.

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MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State coach Bruce Weber talked repeatedly about his team’s maturity after grinding out a 58-51 win over the mostly helpless Texas Tech Red Raiders. But Weber could just as well have been talking directly to his star player, the somewhat enigmatic Marcus Foster.

Foster’s recent issues have been well documented. He was benched recently over poor play, poor practice habits and a poor attitude in general. But the 6-foot-3 guard worked his way back into the starting lineup and has begun listening to his coach again.

Being benched humbled Foster, he admitted. And the ability to be humbled is one sign of maturity.

That maturity was on display Wednesday night against Texas Tech. Foster’s line won’t wow anyone, but it was steady, productive and unselfish — 14 points, five rebounds, four assists.

"I thought it was a good line," Weber said afterward.

But likely what made Weber most satisfied was Foster’s approach. Too often early in the season, Foster seemed overly content on firing up 3-pointers, perhaps in an effort to impress NBA scouts.

Weber wants Foster to get his teammates involved in the offense, which requires him to use his first-step skills to drive to the hoop and create opportunities. Foster understands that now — another clear sign of maturity.

Not that the results have been immediate. Time and time again Foster tried to drive through Texas Tech on Wednesday, only to have his shot blocked or his path blocked.

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But Foster didn’t get frustrated. That penetration did result in dishes to his teammates, creating the four assists.

And there was some reciprocity involved. After a long offensive drought, Foster was rewarded when teammate Jevon Thomas penetrated the lane and fed him on the wing. Foster drained a three.

Foster simply looked down after the 3-pointer fell, took a deep breath and went back on defense.

"It was definitely a sigh of relief for me because I was taking the ball to the basket and not getting anything," Foster said. "I had not hit a shot in a long time (either). So it was definitely something I was happy about that it went down."

And Foster also is talking much more like a team leader, something Weber is begging Foster to do.

Foster, as much as anyone, seemed distressed that the Wildcats spit back a commanding 14-point lead in the first half rather than burying Texas Tech.

"We cannot stay complacent," he said. "We had a 14-point lead. We need to extend that lead to 20, especially going into halftime. That is how you put a team away.

"We have to keep defending and put away teams. We cannot let them keep sticking around. That is how they get confidence, and they got confidence and they hit shots. We just have to keep grinding it out."

And Foster knows he, too, must keep grinding.

"I wasn’t too happy with the way I played (earlier this season)," Foster said. "I know I missed a lot of defensive assignments, and that’s something I don’t usually do. I put my teammates in a bad position."

Those days, he vows, are over.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.