"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple times," said coach Jim Wooldridge. "When you have to come back from 10 or 15 down, you have to do everything right."
The Wildcats had opportunities to achieve that goal. After a hot-shooting barrage by Rutgers guards Ricky Shields and Quincy Douby, the Wildcats trailed by 15 just nine minutes into the game. The Wildcats fought back to trail by ten at the half.
In the second half, both teams fought back and forth until the Wildcats began a 7-0 run with 11:48 remaining. Trailing 54-45, the K-State run began with Lance Harris driving baseline and then dishing a no-look bounce pass to Marques Hayden cutting through the lane for a lay-up. A minute later Clent Stewart hit a 3-pointer that brought nearly all 10,000-plus in Bramlage to their feet. The Wildcats then cut the lead to two after Hayden pulled in an offensive rebound and scored on a nifty up-and-under move from directly beneath the basket.
The Wildcats would fail to get any closer and Wooldridge said that the absence of big plays was the reason.
"We just couldn't make that key play that perhaps would have got us over the hump" Wooldridge said. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights seemed to have a ready supply of daggers on their bench to thrust into the hearts of the Wildcats.
Shields hit a fading-to-his-right 3-pointer to increase Rutgers's lead back to five. Minutes later, Douby hit a jumper to give the Scarlet Knights a six-point advantage after a Lance Harris 3-pointer had cut the lead to four.
For the evening, Shields and Douby combined for 47 points. The guard combo shot 9-15 combined from behind the 3-point stripe.
"They just didn't miss, that's about it," said Jeremiah Massey when asked about the hot shooting duo.
"We knew their guard play would be some of the best we would see all year," Wooldridge said.
Unfortunately, for the Wildcats scoring didn't come quite as easily. Coming off a week where he scored a career high 32 points and was named Big 12 Player of the Week, Massey scored just seven points on 2-12 shooting. Wooldridge recognized this fact and said that the Wildcats can ill-afford nights like that.
"We have to have him score the ball if we're going to be successful," Wooldridge said. Massey, meanwhile, was less concerned about his personal stats. "The only reason I'm disappointed is because we lost," Massey said.
On a night where 10,133 fans made their way into Bramlage Coliseum, the players and coaches alike paid notice to the increased attendance. They also showed concern in failing to get a win on such a night.
"We just know we have to get the fans back," said Massey. "We've got to keep the fans happy." "We have to win more games, we know that," Wooldridge said, concerning increasing the current fan base. "We have to give them something to feel really good about."
After experience their first loss of the season, K-State still shows no sign of a lack of confidence. "I think we're gonna learn from this loss," said Cartier Martin. "It's going to help us get better." "We lost the game and I still think we can be for real," said Wooldridge concerning the team's opportunities after the loss.
Overall, it was definitely encouraging to see that many fans file into the Bramlage seats, and hear them cheer as the Wildcats cut into the Rutgers lead. Fans can take pride in the fact that this team still shows no quit when trailing at the half and that key players are getting the job done while not operating at 100 percent.
Fred Peete left the floor against Rutgers on separate occasions, wincing and holding his back and still managed to lead the team in scoring with 16. Hayden made some key baskets in cutting the Rutgers lead and pulled in eight rebounds, all while battling a migraine problem that has been troubling him recently.
While they do now have a "1" to go in the column opposing their eight victories, this team has still shown a hunger to win that has seemed to have been absent in previous years.
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