Home loss disappoints Martin

As inexplicable as a loss at Oklahoma was for Kansas State, a home-court defeat against the Sooners on Jan. 28 was even more stunning.
The 63-60 loss dropped the Wildcats to 15-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12 after a golden opportunity existed for Kansas State to make a move in the conference race. Instead, a .500 start at the halfway mark raises concerns regarding deficiencies.
Chief among those in the Oklahoma loss was the inability to value the basketball. Kansas State committed 20 turnovers, many of them the result of carelessness and the last coming in the closing seconds when center Jordan Henriquez surrendered the ball to the Sooners’ point guard, Sam Grooms. Oklahoma converted four of four free throws in the final 9.3 seconds, though the Wildcats got a last-second 3-point look for Rodney McGruder that bounded off.
The loss was yet another disturbing example that Kansas State lacks the toughness fifth-year coach Frank Martin demands from players in his program. Toughness not only equates into the physical ability to control the paint, but also the mental capacity to take care of the ball.
“You cannot lose at home,” Martin said. “I do not care how you have to get it done, you cannot lose at home. We have been pretty good at that. It is just disappointing. … When the game started, it got physical. We just stopped running our offense, and guys just break off and do their own thing.”
Of Oklahoma’s three Big 12 wins, two were against the Wildcats. In the rematch, Kansas State had no answer defensively for Steven Pledger, who went 11-for-17 and scored 30 points to pace the Sooners.
In past seasons under Martin, Kansas State has shown the fortitude to bounce back from a demoralizing loss and close with strong runs that qualified the Wildcats for the NCAA Tournament. Better control of the offense is needed immediately, however, and freshman point guard Angel Rodriguez may not be up to the task this early in his collegiate career.


Kruger wins in his return to Manhattan
–The Jan. 28 visit by Oklahoma marked the return of former Kansas State player and coach Lon Kruger. It was the sixth time Kruger coached against the Wildcats, but the first time he directed an opposing team in Bramlage Coliseum, which opened in 1988-89 when Kruger coached Kansas State. His return was incorporated into a gathering of about 50 former players and coaches. As expected, Kruger downplayed the significance of the Sooners’ 63-60 upset, except to praise his players. Still, all the Sooners needed to do was look up and see Kruger’s old No. 12 hanging from the rafters.
“It meant a lot to me,” Oklahoma G Sam Grooms said. “You come back here, where played, in a big-time environment, you want to win for him so he has a little bit of bragging rights. I know he said we didn’t know about it, but I knew about it.”
–Former Kansas State players were introduced at halftime of the Oklahoma game, and they were followed on the court by members of the football team, who were honored for their 10-win season, which culminated in a trip to the Cotton Bowl. QB Collin Klein spoke on behalf of the football team.
–The 30-point performance by Oklahoma G Steven Pledger tied the season-high scoring mark by a Kansas State opponent. West Virginia’s Kevin Jones previously managed that total in double overtime.
“He was just catching the ball wherever he wanted to and getting open looks,” Wildcats G Rodney McGruder said of Pledger. “You can’t let a shooter do that. You have to make his catches hard.”
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — Season-high total of charges Kansas State drew defensively in the loss to Oklahoma, including three by F Jamar Samuels.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Our turnovers aren’t aggressive turnovers — they’re careless, passive turnovers that lead to easy points. That’s a problem.” — Kansas State coach Frank Martin.