MANHATTAN, Kan. —The major difference in Kansas State’s 74-54 stomping of Missouri was the free-throw line.
The Wildcats (11-3, 1-2) scored 25 points on 34 attempts from the line while Missouri had trouble getting to the line, hitting just 7-of-15.
The Tigers (9-7, 1-2) couldn’t get their game together in the first half and struggled terribly with shooting. Missouri was especially atrocious from the 3-point line hitting just 1 of 13 for 7.7 percent. The team also struggled to hang on to the ball early and turned it over three times in its first five possessions.
“I’d like for us not to be reliant on the 3-point shot but the way they (Kansas State) play they’re just coming down on Linas (Kleiza) and you’ve got guys that have wide-open looks and they’re daring you to shoot them,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said, “You take some of them but I think also you have to recognize when you’re not making them.”
Snyder said three’s weren’t the only reason the Tigers lost but also because they didn’t play with as much tenacity as they needed to.
“I told our team before the game that I thought the team that was the toughest and played the hardest would win the game,” Snyder said. “We knew and talked a lot about the fact that this was really a back- to- the- wall game for K-State and it needed to be that way for us.”
Adding to the Tigers problems, they didn’t have any luck driving to the basket either. Twice early in the period Missouri got called for charges. The first charge was called against center Kevin Young. Young was trailing Jimmy McKinney on a fast break and McKinney passed it to Young over his shoulder. Young went for the slam, which he missed, but was called for a foul. The other was called on Jason Conley when he drove to the basket and tried to elevate above a Kansas State defender but ended up steam-rolling him instead.
“Even though we didn’t get anything on the offensive end, we’ve got to make sure if we don’t score we’ve got to make sure they don’t score neither,” McKinney said. “That’s the type of game plan that we had and the type of game plan that we’ve been having.”
Things continued to go wrong for the Tigers throughout the second half. It all started early in the period. Kleiza, a sophomore forward, got a dish from freshman point Jason Horton with an open basket at about 18:00. Kleiza then put it off the glass too hard when he could have easily dunked it.
Kleiza said he wasn’t sure why Missouri struggled so much against Kansas State but said it might be the relative youngness of the team.
“I think we’re just having a hard time handling success,” Kleiza said.
While Missouri trailed for the entire game, the Tigers threatened to come back from a 54-34 deficit about half way through the second period. With four minutes left in the game, Kleiza hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 61-52 but the Tigers couldn’t come through with the rally.
Despite having a hard time finding success inside, the Tigers tried to shoot themselves back into the game with a flurry of 3-pointers. Conley said the Tigers took the shots out of desperation.
Instead of getting the Tigers back in the game, it allowed the Wildcats to build their lead and finally shut the Tigers out completely.
“It wasn’t any selfish play at all,” Conley said. “I don’t think it was that. I think guys were just trying to help, as far as hitting threes, but sometimes you just have to go to the rack.”