The Kansas State men’s basketball team didn’t look right during a pair of road losses to Oklahoma and Texas Tech last week, so coach Jerome Tang went looking for the reasons.
How, after so much success in early Big 12 play, were the Wildcats suddenly hit by two teams that reside in the bottom half of the league standings?
After looking at those performances from many different angles, Tang finally found his answer. He blamed himself.
“A lot of what hasn’t gone our way doesn’t fall on their shoulders,” Tang said. “It falls on me as head coach for not giving them what they needed.”
Tang’s biggest self-criticism: He was too harsh on his players. Turning into an angry coach helped the Wildcats bounce back from losses when they hosted TCU at home earlier this month. Getting K-State players running and expending as much energy as possible in workouts seemed to help them in that game. But you can’t keep that style for long.
K-State responded to their next string of tough workouts by withering away in the second half against Texas Tech (71-63) and Oklahoma (79-65).
The harder Tang pushed, the more the K-State roster got tired or lost its “legs” as Tang likes to say.
But he gave up on that approach leading up to recent games against Iowa State and Baylor. Lo and behold, the Wildcats won both games with second half comebacks. They’re back to looking like a top team in the Big 12.
“These past two days we have done what we have to do and given them rest,” said Tang. “We have shortened our practices. We had legs. That’s what we haven’t had in the last two games, especially the Oklahoma game. (Against Iowa State), I thought we had legs from how we prepared and more from what we didn’t do than what we did.
He felt the same way about Baylor’s win.
When asked what allowed K-State star Keyontae Johnson to explode for 25 points in that game, he answered with one word: “Legs.”
It’s a safe bet that Tang will continue with short, focused workouts for the rest of the season. Her hope is that they help the Wildcats finish strong. But it won’t be easy with upcoming games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
K-State’s next game, a 1 p.m. tip at Gallagher-Iba Arena, could be the toughest of the bunch. The Cowboys have won five of their last six games at home, while the Wildcats have lost five straight on the road.
The Wildcats will need extra energy in their legs to end that skid.