Why Jerome Tang compared Kansas State’s struggles to ‘Die Hard’ after latest defeat

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A once promising basketball season has started to turn ugly for the Kansas State men’s basketball team.

Over the past few weeks, the Wildcats have gone from first place in the Big 12 standings to below .500 in conference play. Not long ago, the NCAA Tournament felt like a lock. Now the NIT appears more likely. A winning streak has been replaced by four consecutive losses.

Things are beginning to look bleak for K-State following a 75-72 loss against struggling Oklahoma State on Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Wildcats (14-8, 4-5 Big 12) didn’t play with enough skill or effort to come up with key stops in the second half and the Cowboys (10-12, 2-7 Big 12) found a way to win just their second league game of the season.

Fans are understandably concerned about the team’s trajectory. But K-State coach Jerome Tang is staying positive. To that end, he is comparing the Wildcats’ recent struggles to a popular action movie in which the main character faces great adversity before ultimately becoming a hero.

“’Die Hard’ wouldn’t be great,” Tang said, “if Bruce Willis got killed in the first scene.”

Much like John McClane was able to thwart Hans Gruber and a group of international thieves from stealing millions from Nakatomi Plaza in the classic film “Die Hard,” Tang thinks it is far too early to write off the Wildcats.

He compared K-State’s losing skid to the moment in “Die Hard” when McClane injures himself while running over shattered glass without any shoes.

Did he feel sorry for himself and give up? No, he kept fighting and saved the day.

“This is our movie,” Tang said. “We can choose to be victims, or we can choose to be stars. We are going to choose to be stars in this movie. We’re going to be the one to determine how it turns out, not somebody else or the narrative or the obstacles that are in our way.”

Tang has a point. If K-State can fix a few things there is more than enough time left in the season for the Wildcats to turn things around, win games and maybe even make a run at the NCAA Tournament.

But that journey became much harder when K-State lost to Oklahoma State. This was one of the few games left on the schedule in which the Wildcats were favored to win.

Now K-State must make up for lost ground with a Monday home game against Kansas and five other contests against ranked opponents after that.

Going on a winning streak against that type of competition won’t be easy.

So how does K-State create a happy ending for itself, the same way McClane did in “Die Hard” and all of its sequels?

Start with effort. The Wildcats aren’t an offensive juggernaut right now. Cam Carter, Tylor Perry and Arthur Kaluma are the only consistent scorers on the roster, and other teams have figured this out. Taking them away has been a top priority for opponents. That has left K-State often trying to win with defense.

On most nights, the Wildcats can rely on their defense to keep them on games. But things got away from them in the second half against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State exploded for 46 points in the second half, with K-State unable to do anything about it.

“We weren’t competing,” Tang said.

“As a team,” added Carter, “we have got to play with more heart.”

Tang also lamented the fact that Oklahoma State beat K-State to just about every loose ball on Saturday. Whenever there was an effort play to be made, the Cowboys rose to the occasion and the Wildcats did not.

Only one team resembled McClane in this game, and it wasn’t K-State.

That must change for K-State’s season to have a happy ending.

“We have got to figure out how we’re going to compete for 40 minutes,” Tang said. “We have enough talent. They just kicked our butts to the 50/50 balls. That was a credit to Mike (Boynton) and his staff, getting those guys ready. They competed harder than we did at times. You can’t pick and choose. We’re not good enough to pick and choose when we’re going to compete and win games in this league.”