It was impossible for Kansas State men’s basketball coach Jerome Tang to feel good about the stat line that Keyontae Johnson produced during a 76-64 loss against Butler on Wednesday inside Hinkle Fieldhouse.
There was one main reason why: It was flawless.
Yes, you read that right. Johnson finished with 20 points, on 9-of-9 shooting and found a way to grab 12 rebounds. And, yes, Tang wasn’t happy about those numbers.
“When you have a guy on your team who does not miss a shot that means he did not shoot enough,” Tang said. “That’s what that means. That, as a staff, is on us to make sure that he gets more shots.”
Getting the ball to Johnson should and will be a priority moving forward for the Wildcats. Whenever he attacked the basket or fired away from the perimeter, he was on the money and good things happened. He made both of his attempts from three-point range and drained all nine of his shots from within the arc.
Butler coach Thad Matta had an abundance of praise for Johnson after the game was over.
“That is one of the best performances I have seen,” Matta said. “The guy didn’t miss a shot. I was very impressed watching him on film beforehand. He gets you in so many ways. He can shoot from three, then he has a quick first step and he can post you up. He is just a tremendous, tremendous player.”
Problem is, he didn’t get enough opportunities to showcase his skills against the Bulldogs. Some of that was on the coaching staff. Some of that was on him. And some of that was on his teammates.
He started red hot and scored eight of K-State’s first 12 points, and yet there were plenty of possessions afterward where all he did was stand in the corner and watch his teammates run offense.
For that reason, he walked away from the game feeling as though he could have played more aggressively. Or perhaps he could have played a little smarter. Though he didn’t miss a shot, he did lose five turnovers.
“I feel like I could have done a better job getting my teammates open looks than I did,” Johnson said. “I should have limited my turnovers and gotten easier shots for all of us.”
This is the second time this season that Tang has lamented not feeding the ball to a hot shooter.
Sophomore guard Cam Carter also got off to an impressive start from three-point range against Kansas City and he hardly saw an open look the rest of the way.
The Wildcats didn’t learn from that experience, which is strange because they struggled on offense outside of Johnson against the Bulldogs. For a while it felt like it was Johnson vs. the world.
Desi Sills came off the bench and provided some sparks off the dribble in the second half. Nowell added 13 points, but K-State didn’t get many other contributions on that side of the ball.
It’s never good to have such an excellent game from one of your best players and still lose by double digits.
Tang blamed himself for that. Maybe next time Johnson has a hot night, K-State will find a way for him to keep shooting until he misses.
“Keyontae has been great,” Tang said. “This is a great kid and he’s fun to be around and his basketball is only getting better and better and better. We as a staff have to do a better job of making sure he gets more touches.”