Kansas State coach Bruce Weber made no secret of the fact that one of his team’s goals this season was to win the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. But the Wildcats, edged by unbeaten Arizona State in the semifinals, will have to settle for trying to win the consolation game when they face George Washington on Friday night at the Orleans Arena.
Weber had joked he would let his team jump in the fountains in front of the Bellagio Hotel if they could win their first holiday tournament since the 2011 Diamond Head Classic. But he wasn’t in any laughing mood after the 92-90 loss to the Sun Devils, especially after seeing the final stat sheet which showed Kansas State getting whistled for 32 fouls to 18 for Arizona State, which finished with a huge 29-7 edge in made free throws. “We didn’t guard,” Weber said on his postgame radio show. “They are very good and we thought we were very good defensively and we didn’t have any answers for them. Obviously, we fouled too much.” Despite the discrepancy at the free-throw line, Kansas State had a chance to force overtime, but guard Barry Brown couldn’t convert on a contested driving layup at the buzzer.
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ABOUT GEORGE WASHINGTON (2-3): The Colonials return five players who started 10 or more games last season on a squad that finished 20-15 and advanced to the second round of the College Basketball Invitational. Senior guard Yuta Watanabe, a 6-8 native of Japan, leads the team in scoring (14.0), rebounding (8.0) and blocks (3.0). Sophomore guard Jair Bolden (13.8), freshman guard Terry Nolan Jr. (10.8), who had a team-high 18 points in Thursday’s loss to Xavier, and senior forward Patrick Steeves (10.6) also are averaging in double figures with Bolden contributing a team best 3.8 assists.
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (4-1): Weber said the key for his team is to put the tough loss to Arizona State behind them quickly. “There’s a lot of frustration and anger in the locker room, but it’s over,” he said. “You have a quick reset and your mindset has to be good for (Friday). You have to win and not let one (loss) become two.” Despite the big miss at the buzzer, Brown was outstanding, scoring a team-high 27 points, including 4-of-9 3-pointers, while Kamau Stokes added 23 points, including 7-of-10 3-pointers.
1. Kansas State entered the tournament leading the nation in field goal percentage defense (30.8) but was torched by Arizona State, which shot 54 percent from the field.
2. The Wildcats finished 15-of-32 from 3-point range against Arizona State.
3. Kansas State junior F Dean Wade, who entered the event leading the team in scoring (12.8) and second in rebounding (5.3), finished with five points and five rebounds in the loss to the Sun Devils.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 66, George Washington 61