Kansas

K-State Wildcats vs. Butler Bulldogs: Basketball Game Recap

Butler guard Jayden Taylor (13) drives at Kansas State forward Ismael Massoud (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis on Wednesday, November 30, 2022.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Butler guard Jayden Taylor (13) drives at Kansas State forward Ismael Massoud (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Indianapolis on Wednesday, November 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

AP

Jerome Tang lost his first game as Kansas State basketball coach Wednesday, 76-64 to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The Wildcats (6-1) battled the Bulldogs (5-3) trying their best to win a Big 12/Big East Challenge game in a noisy street environment, but they couldn’t match the home team’s batting punch, when Butler played best.

Thad Matta’s team took a 25-13 lead, making it difficult for K-State to stay in the single digits the rest of the way.

K-State was able to make things interesting at times, such as early in the second half when the draw was 48-43 at 14:16. But Butler responded with a 17-4 run to claim the win.

Keyontae Johnson led all K-State scorers with 20 points (on 9-of-9 shots) and 12 rebounds, while Desi Sills added 17 points and Markquis Nowell had 13.

Butler countered with a balanced 22-point, 10-rebound attack from Manny Bates and four other players who finished in double figures.

We’ve seen Tang’s approach to winning as head coach at K-State. Now we see how he reacts to a loss. The Wildcats next play Wichita State at home on Saturday.

Until then, here are some key takeaways from all of the actions against Butler:

No laughing stock on defense

At the end of the Cayman Islands Classic, Tang joked that he saw his team not play much defense in victories over Rhode Island, Nevada and LSU.

He could joke about it because the Wildcats played well enough on offense that it didn’t matter, and they still won the tournament.

But there was nothing to smile about following K-State’s defensive performance in that game. Butler was firing on all cylinders and hitting at will for much of the game. The Bulldogs led 25-12 early in the first half, 34-21 late in the first half, and as much as 18 points at times in the second half.

Five different Butler players hit double digits as the Bulldogs made 54.9% of their shots from the field and 40% of their shots from three-point range.

Inside it was far too easy for Butler. His players attempted 13 layups and made 10 of them. They also attempted four dunks and missed none.

The Wildcats had to play to a much higher level on defense to stay in this game on a night they scored just 64 points.

Keyontae Johnson vs. the World

Johnson earned his scholarship in this.

Not only did the Florida transfer lead all K-State scorers with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but he never missed his nine shots from the field.

Whenever he attacked the basket or shot off the perimeter, he was on the money and good things happened for the Wildcats. Those things just weren’t happening enough, and he didn’t get much help from his teammates.

Desi Sills came off the bench and sparked some dribbling in the second half. Nowell added 13 points. But K-State didn’t get many other contributions this side of the ball, and often committed too many turnovers.

It’s telling that K-State could have such an excellent game from their best player and still lose by double digits.

Ismael Massoud the first (and only) big off the bench

The Wildcats have typically alternated between David N’Guessan and Abayomi Iyiola down the middle this season, but they used a different strategy against the Bulldogs.

Whenever N’Guessan needed a breather or got into trouble, he came out of the game and Ismael Massoud replaced him inside. Massoud is usually more of a stretch forward or a wing in Tang’s system.

The change in rotation was likely due, at least in part, to minor injury concerns at Iyiola. The older tall man did not play at all on Wednesday despite being in full uniform. His minutes have been dwindling for the Wildcats lately, but he was on the rotation until this game.

Massoud had some decent moments coming off the bench and playing the five, but he struggled the most of that game, finishing with two points and two assists. N’Guessan only had eight points and two rebounds.

The Wildcats needed more of that position. This was most evident on the defensive. Butler forward Manny Bates destroyed the Wildcats inside, so much so thatt he can track K-State players for a while. Bates finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.

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