Kansas State coach Bruce Weber and guard Cartier Diarra did their best to downplay an apparent altercation between them Wednesday night during the second half of the Wildcats' game at Texas Tech.
K-State suffered its sixth straight loss, 69-62, at United Supermarket Arena in Lubbock, Texas, falling to 9-17 overall and 2-11 for the season.
Diarra drew Weber's ire over shot selection during a media timeout early in the half with K-State trailing by four points, earning a seat on the bench until the next media break. Shortly thereafter, he missed a windmill dunk that would have tied the game and did not return for the final 9:44.
Weber told the Wichita Eagle after the game that Diarra was simply displaying "great passion," and that he showed "great energy on the bench."
"(Diarra) is trying to play hard and to get (his team) to play at a high level."
The two appeared to have words, Diarra emphatically clapped his hands in Weber's direction and Weber slammed his stool to the floor during a media timeout with 15:21 left in the game and Tech up, 40-36. Diarra, who had just missed a step-back jump shot, returned at the 11:41 mark, and with 10:04 to go scored on a driving layup that pulled the Wildcats within 44-42.
On the next possession, Diarra came up with a steal and went up for the windmill dunk, but slammed the ball off the rim. Texas Tech's Davide Moretti knocked down a 3-pointer at the other end, turning what should have been a tie game into a five-point Red Raider advantage.
Weber called timeout at the 9:44 mark and shortly after, Tech stretched the lead to eight points on a Jahmi'us Ramsey 3-pointer and Kyler Edwards fast-break basket. The Wildcats got no closer than six until the final minute and Diarra did not play the rest of the way.
After the team arrived back in Manhattan from the game early Thursday morning, Diarra posted an explanation on his Instagram account.
"I just wanted to clear the confusion and apologize for making it seem as though my coach and I had an altercation," Diarra said in the post. "Coach wanted me to take advantage of the switch instead of shooting and all I said was that I'm going to make the next shot.
"Coach knows I'm a competitor and I give my all and all he was doing was challenging me and that's how I responded. I was raised right and I've never cursed at Coach Web or any former coach for challenging me. I would love if this negative storyline could go away. EMAW tatted on the skin and it ain't for no reason. I've always been about K-State."
Asked if he and Diarra had deeper issues, Weber said, 'Nah, they are trying to compete.’
"Everyone wants to do well. That is just part of it."
The loss followed an eerily familiar pattern for K-State, which trailed early, fell behind by 11 with just over six minutes left in the half but closed the period on a 10-2 run to pull within 30-27 at intermission. Tech stretched it back to eight points early in the second half, but K-State rallied again and clearly had the momentum until Diarra's missed dunk.
Weber said he was encouraged by the Wildcats' energy and effort despite the loss.
"A lot of games I leave, win or lose, I'm not always very happy. I'm happy they competed and that's all I can ask," Weber said on his postgame radio show. "We talked about playing with a passion and I thought we matched their passion.
"I told them if they do that Saturday (against Texas) we'll be good at home. And then we talked about being coachable. I think for the most part, most of them are coachable — it's your attitude, it's your body language. It's buying in (and) it's staying together as a group, because we've got to have coaches on the court also. That's important."
The Wildcats got a solid performance from senior wing Xavier Sneed, who scored 15 points and matched Diarra with four steals. Freshman forward Antonio Gordon had his best recent outing with 14 points and eight rebounds and Diarra finished with 10 points in 26 minutes.
Moretti had 18 points, Ramsey 17 and Edwards 14 for Tech, which improved to 17-9, 8-5 in the Big 12.
K-State begins faces Texas at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum in the first of three straight Saturday home games.