Tag Archives: Kansas State basketball

Wildcats stunned by Cyclones, 72-70

31 Jan

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Wildcats had won five in a row in Hilton Coliseum. Frank Martin had coached Kansas State to victories in seven of eight games against the Cyclones. Many thought this matchup would be one of the easiest on the Wildcats’ schedule.

All that changed as Royce White scored 22 points to lead the Cyclones to defeat Kansas State 72-70 in the waning seconds of the game.

With the Wildcats in front 70-69, Rodney McGruder dribbled determinedly down the middle of the lane and rose to shoot. Despite contact from two different Cyclones, the referees stayed silent. In contrast, the announcers called a foul immediately. When they had to rebuke themselves, they did so with astonishment.

“Are you kidding me?” “That was a mugging!”

Coach Frank Martin berated the referees mercilessly for the apparent oversight, but the game continued unaffected.

Chris Babb made a free throw to tie the game 70-70 but missed his second attempt. Melvin Ejim rebounded it. Scott Christopherson – who went 1 of 6 from the field – shot and also missed. Ejim rebounded it again. He put the ball back up and could not convert either. Yet again, the Cylones came away with the ball. This time they took a timeout.

With 22 seconds left to play, Iowa State had possession. Eventually, the ball wound up down in the paint in the hands of none other than White.

His bucket with 1.8 seconds remaining gave the Cyclones a 72-70 lead, and the Wildcats did not get off a shot before time expired. The loss marked the second time in a week’s span that a win has eluded Kansas State by just one basket.

Early in the game, Martavious Irving stepped up for the Wildcats, hitting three 3-pointers on his way to an 11-point performance in the first half. Thomas Gipson finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds, and Victor Ojeleye had 3 points and 10 rebounds.

McGruder scored only 5 points in the first half, but he hit three baskets to open up the second half. As he finally starting getting comfortable, the Wildcats amassed a 53-49 lead five minutes after the break. The tables turned when the Cyclones scored seven unanswered points, cutting Kansas State’s advantage in half.

With a little less than seven minutes to play, Iowa State trailed by just three points, 63-60. A pair of free throws by Gipson gave Kansas State five points of breathing room, but the Cyclones quickly closed the gap again.

They would not retake the lead until that final sequence, making it all the more devastating for the Wildcats.

In the first half, Kansas State and Iowa State traded leads continuously. With the Wildcats down by two, Gipson scored back-to-back baskets at the rim to ignite a 13-4 run that starred three consecutive buckets by Irving and put the Wildcats ahead 31-24 with two and a half minutes until the break.

Kansas State would build on its 36-29 halftime lead, but it could not stop Iowa State’s slow and steady comeback in the final minutes.

OU snaps KSU’s win streak, 63-60

28 Jan

Lon Kruger had coached and won against his alma mater in the past, just never at Bramlage Coliseum. That changed Saturday night, when Oklahoma eked out a 63-60 victory over No. 22 Kansas State.

Steven Pledger scored 30 points to lift the Sooners to their second win over Kansas State this season. Cameron Clark added 11 points.

“The win is great, but much more important, I thought we showed a little more toughness, a little more fight, a little more competitiveness than we have,” Kruger said. “I’m really happy for our guys with the outcome.”

The Sooners’ lead oscillated between three points and one point as the teams traded free throws in the final minutes of the game. Rodney McGruder got a long 3-pointer off before the buzzer, but it was no good.

Kansas State turned the ball over 20 times and made just 3 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc. While coach Frank Martin credited Oklahoma’s defense, he also acknowledged the Wildcats’ struggles.

“They’re a physical team,” he said. “Defensively, we held our ground. Offensively, we didn’t.”

The Sooners took a 38-28 lead less than two minutes into the second half, but the Wildcats scored five straight baskets in a 12-2 run that culminated in back-to-back pull-up jumpers from McGruder to tie the game at 42.

“We’d been in a little bit of foul trouble all night,” Kruger said. “It made us play a little bit more zone there in the second half.”

A pair of free throws from Will Spradling gave the Wildcats a 44-42 lead midway through the second half. It was the first time Oklahoma had trailed since another Spradling bucket put Kansas State up 24-23 at the 3:44 mark of the first half.

After McGruder’s free throws gave Kansas State a 48-45 advantage, the Sooners went on a 10-3 run to take a 55-51 lead with 4 minutes to play.

Free throws from Jamar Samuels and a 3-pointer by McGruder pulled Kansas State to within 57-56 with less than 2 minutes remaining.

Two free throws by Pledger restored the Sooners’ three-point lead, but a slicing drive to the rim by Spradling got the Wildcats’ back within one with 30 seconds to play.

After Kansas State turned it over, Romero Osby swished two free throws to make it a 61-58 game with less than 10 seconds remaining. The Sooners fouled Jordan Henriquez on purpose and he made two free throws to get back within 61-60, but Sam Grooms answered with two foul shots of his own and McGruder’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“If you want to compete for a conference championship, you can’t lose at home,” said Martin, who bemoaned his team missing out on a chance to put themselves in upper echelon of the Big 12.

“We had a great opportunity today to solidify ourselves at the top third of the league.”

The Wildcats led by as many as six points in the first half, but an 11-4 blitz by Oklahoma before halftime gave the Sooners a 34-28 lead going into the break. The Wildcats could not find an answer for Pledger, who scored 18 in the first 20 minutes.

The series of plays that inspired the late run by Oklahoma came 3 minutes before the break.

Carl Blair stole the ball and placed it perfectly for a soaring Clark to slam it and put the Sooners up 27-24. A stunningly similar alley-oop by Clark moments later gave Oklahoma a four-point lead with 1:30 to go until halftime.

A traditional three-point play by McGruder _ his second of the half _ got the Wildcats within one, but a pair of free throws by Osby and yet another bucket from Pledger gave his team a six-point lead after 20 minutes.

“Tonight I think you saw a team that wanted to win _ period,” Grooms said. “Just wanted to win, whatever we had to do, from boxing out, to rebounding, to talking on defense, just being a team.”

Time to cowboy up

20 Jan

If Kansas State gets its first Big 12 road win of the season tomorrow afternoon, it will be a huge accomplishment.

Don’t be fooled by Oklahoma State’s 9-9 overall record. The Cowboys will be a handful on Saturday. For a long time, it seems like they have had Kansas State’s number. The Wildcats have not won in Gallagher-Iba Arena since 1993. Since the formation of the Big 12, Kansas State is 3-13 against Oklahoma State.

Coach Frank Martin said the arena is a crazy atmosphere and a difficult place to win. He recalled the last two games his team has played there, saying the Wildcats had managed the game but just came apart at the seams late, between foul trouble last year and crunch-time turnovers the year before that.

“That building is hard,” Martin said. “The crowd is off the charts, and they feed off of that.  They have great players and Travis [Ford] does a heck of a job with their team.”

The floor leader of the Cowboys is about as overlook-able as his team’s mediocre record. By now, though, everyone who has seen 5-foot-9 senior Keiton Page play knows better than to underestimate him. He leads the team with nearly 15 points per game – almost the average that Kansas State dynamo Rodney McGruder is sporting.

“Keiton is the heart of their team,” Martin said. “He might be the smallest player in the league, but he probably has the biggest heart.  He is a ferocious competitor.  I am not there every day, but I am told he is as good of leader as they have seen at Oklahoma State in years.  When you watch their team play, and you watch him, I think it is clear as day that he is the guy that guides them.”

However, Page is easily the most experienced of his group. According to Oklahoma State’s game notes, he is the lone senior on an eight-man rotation that aside from him includes one junior, one sophomore and five freshman.

Of course, the Wildcats are not necessarily loaded with experienced veterans themselves. In the starting lineup Kansas State has one senior, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen. The Wildcats probably have more experience coming off the bench, but it would appear that both squads are in that growing-pains sort of stage.

The Cowboys are coming off a last-second loss to Iowa State in Ames. In that game, both Page and Le’Bryan Nash had 21 points. Oklahoma State had the advantage in most statistical categories, but the team also got just 10 opportunities at the foul line and took advantage of just five.

Remember, Kansas State took 39 foul shots on Wednesday in its 84-80 victory over Texas. Granted, that Iowa State had only 16 attempts against Oklahoma means probably means that game was 1) less physical or 2) being officiated differently, but I think it may be worth noting.

The aggression the Wildcats demonstrated in going to the rim against Texas is exactly what they have to do to be successful the rest of this season. It gets you to the foul line, it draws defenders into the paint to open up perimeter shooters and it allows you higher-percentage shots.

Saturday’s game starts at 12:30 and will be televised on the Big 12 Network.

Wildcats “own Texas” again, 84-80

19 Jan

MANHATTAN, Kan. – On a Wednesday night in Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats escaped with an 84-80 win over Texas despite missing 7 of 10 free throws in the last minute and 14 seconds of the game.

“We had a chance to win it,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We’ve played enough games now we should be able to handle it.”

Rodney McGruder scored a career-high 33 points in the game. Jamar Samuels scored 14, and Thomas Gipson and Will Spradling each added 11.

The penetration of the lane by guards and persistence of the big men gave the Wildcats 39 opportunities at the foul line. Incredibly, taking advantage of just 21 of those would be enough.

For Texas, J’Covan Brown – who had been leading the league in scoring – got off to a slow start, scoring just five points in the first half before coming alive in the second to finish with 22.

Sheldon McClellan provided a steadier presence throughout the game and ended up with 19 points. Brown made a 3-pointer and a layup to bring the Longhorns within three points with 30 seconds left, but it would not be enough.

“They simply overpowered us inside,” Barnes said. “Not only their post guys, but their guards were able to get pretty deep with us.”

The Wildcats did not necessarily shoot out of the gate to start the game, but nine minutes into the first half, Kansas State went on an 11-0 run that began with three consecutive 3-pointers – two from McGruder from the baseline in front of the band, and another from Spradling on the opposite side. The treys gave the Wildcats a 29-18 lead.

Myck Kabongo briefly interrupted the Wildcats’ momentum with an old-fashioned three-point play, but a 3-pointer from Samuels and acrobatic layup by Martavious Irving in traffic gave Kansas State a 15-point advantage.

Another basket by Kabongo cut the Wildcats’ lead to 36-23, and Clint Chapman turned aggressive post play into seven straight points with two buckets and three free throws. After an outside shot by McClellan, Texas trailed only 36-32 with four minutes to play in the half.

Four consecutive missed free throws for the Wildcats – two by Victor Ojeleye and one each by Angel Rodriguez and Samuels – stilted the offense and gave way to eight unanswered points by the Longhorns, and Texas took a 40-38 lead.

The Wildcats would reclaim the lead before halftime, but even with only five points from Brown, the Longhorns went into halftime down just one point, 43-42.

McGruder, who scored the Wildcats’ first basket and totaled 16 points in the first half, got Kansas State off to a good start in the second half as well. His drives into the lane yielded five points on six free throw attempts early, creating a six-point separation in favor of Kansas State.

Down the stretch, Texas cut the lead to two points on five occasions before the midpoint of the second half, but Kansas State answered each time, increasing the deficit to four nearly every time it scored.

McGruder captained the Wildcats’ charge to pull away from the Longhorns with a bucket that would give him 29 points with six minutes to play. Thomas Gipson went strong to the rim and collected a free throw and a bucket on consecutive possessions to give Kansas State a 75-68 lead with 3:51 to play.

Free throws by Alexis Wangmene cut the gap to five points, but Texas had no answers defensively, and a free throw by Irving on one possession and a bucket by him on the following one gave Kansas State an 80-73 lead with 1:14 to play.

While Brown would get a few shots to go at the end, Martin seemed happy with his team’s defensive effort overall.

“I was pretty pleased how we stuck to our disciplines down the stretch,” he said. “We ran offense, and we got the right guys to the foul line.”

With the win, the Wildcats moved to 13-4 and 2-3 in Big 12 play. In their first three conference games, they played three Top 25 teams.

 

Sunflower Showdown 2012: Round 1

4 Jan

Numbers to Note

  • The Wildcats and Jayhawks have clashed 272 times on the hardwood. Today’s game is just the 15th meeting in which both teams are ranked. KU is No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, while those voters put Kansas State at No. 23 and No. 22, respectively.
  • With a win today, the Kansas State basketball program would have 1,500 victories in its history, joining Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma State in that distinction.
  • Kansas’ home court advantage is well-documented across the board, and Kansas State has not been an exception to that rule. The Wildcats have lost five consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse and have just one win in the last 17 contests there. Frank Martin is 0-4 in Lawrence and 2-7 against the Jayhawks in his time as head coach of the Wildcats.
Trivia
  • What year did the series between Kansas and Kansas State begin?
  • Before Frank Martin, who was the last Kansas State coach to have more than one win in the series against Kansas?
  • How many times have Kansas and Kansas State for their Big 12 season openers?
  • When was the last time Kansas State began Big 12 play against back-to-back ranked teams?
  • How many players does Kansas State have in the Top 20 in rebounding, and who are they?
Puzzles to Ponder
  • What will Kansas State do without its go-to guy of Jacob Pullen to rely on?  While they looked rough early this season, the Wildcats seem to have ironed out some of their issues in their first dozen games. What used to be a stale offense with poor shooting has slowly progressed into a more fluid system as the players facilitate motion by doing what Martin asks – passing the ball around and moving without it. No one as emerged as “the” guy yet, but between Will Spradling, Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez, fireworks are never far away. The combination of the three and the different styles they bring has been great for the Wildcats.
  • Who is going to be the biggest surprise this season? Watching Kansas State play Howard, the player who stood out to me was Jeremy Jones. He is so quick that when he weaves around the court that it looks like everyone else is on a slight delay. Also, his speed while dribbling reminds me of a comment Martin once made about Denis Clemente. Martin said that Clemente was the fastest he had ever seen with the ball in his hands. Jones, I think, is in that category. More noticeably, his release is just beautiful, for those who appreciate fundamentally sound jump shots. This is the one you point out to your son, daughter or sibling who plays basketball and tell him or her to shoot like this guy.
  • What are the strengths of this team? As I heard Bill Self say on the radio once, “Depth is not good because it protects you from injuries or because it allows players to take breaks without the quality of play dropping. Rather, depth is good because when your starters are not doing what you want them to do, you can take them out and put in someone who will do what you want them to do.” Martin has depth this season. This is helpful not only because of the aforementioned reason but also because the coach can ask his guys for all-out effort and have it be a reasonable request because they know they will have some time to recuperate here and there.
Trivia Answers
  • 1907
  • Dana Altman
  • Ten – Today will be No. 11.
  • 1996-97
  • Four – Jamar Samuels is 6th, Thomas Gipson is 7th, Jordan Henriquez is 14th and Rodney McGruder is 18th.

Preview: Kansas State vs. George Washington

1 Dec

Who are the guys to watch in this game? It should not be difficult to keep track of the guys to watch for George Washington: two of the most interesting ones have alliterations – #3 Tony Taylor and #5 Bryan Bynes. Taylor, a senior point guard, leads the team in scoring (nearly 16 ppg), assists (nearly 5 per game) and steals (a little over 1 per game), according to the team’s website. As you can imagine, he is not on the bench much – only about 5 minutes each game. Oh, by the way, he’s shooting a scathing 63 percent (12 of 19) from beyond the arc. Bynes is one it will be interesting to watch because he and Kansas State’s Martavious Irving have been friends since they were little kids and played on the same high school team and AAU team. For the Wildcats, look for Jamar Samuels to have loosened up and be finishing on some of those looks he missed last game. Also, Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder should hit some outside shots early so they can keep defenders honest and have opportunities to slash to the rim as well. Maybe the most fun to watch will be Thomas Gipson, the beastly freshman who has been converting at the rim and earning and-ones like nobody’s business.

What will this game tell us about the Wildcats? Coach Frank Martin said the Colonels are all about controlling the tempo of the game – that’s their coach’s modus operandi, or “schtick,” as Martin says. To combat this, either the Wildcats will have to get steals and defensive rebounds and push a faster tempo, or they will have to play in a much more disciplined manner than they have been doing lately – actually running plays, setting picks and passing. Obviously, a faster tempo would probably be better for Kansas State.

How might this game impact Kansas State going forward? This is a team that’s 4-1. Eastern Maryland Shore, the only game so far the Wildcats have won by a significant margin, was 1-3 heading into Bramlage Coliseum. Kansas State has definitely been going through its growing pains even with nominally easier opponents, and now it hits a stretch of much more challenging ones: George Washington tonight, Virginia Tech on Dec. 4, and West Virginia in Wichita on Dec. 8. Tonight’s game could set the tone for this stretch. A strong performance is going to provide some confidence going into those, so win or lose, the Wildcats need that tonight.

When was the last time these teams played? These teams last met in December of 1940 in Washington D.C. In that game, George Washington defeated Kansas State 48-25.

Where is George Washington University? George Washington University is in Washington, D.C., along with Georgetown University and George Mason University, in case you were wondering.

Why is this particular game on the schedule? Martin said he wants to try to get his players back home to be able to play in front of their families and friends as much as possible. The team accomplished that by playing Loyola in Chicago – where Jacob Pullen is from – last season, and an encore of tomorrow night’s game in Washington D.C. would get Rodney McGruder back to his home.


Big 12 Farewell – Basketball Edition

29 Mar

As the elimination of Kansas by Virginia Commonwealth snuffed out the last hope of the Big 12 conference being represented in the 2011 Final Four, here’s a look at the seasons of all the teams in the league. Collectively, the five Big 12 teams given March Madness berths went went 5-5 in this year’s tournament. Keep in mind: this which just ended is the last season that the Big 12 will have 12 teams, at least for the foreseeable future, as Nebraska is leaving for the Big 10 and Colorado is joining the Pac-10.

Kansas: 3-1 in the NCAA tournament, 14-2 Big 12, 35-3 overall In four games of March Madness, the Jayhawks, a  No. 1 seed, never faced a team seeded higher than 9. In the first round, they played 16-seed Boston University, then moved on to face 9-seed Illinois. Because of upsets elsewhere in its region, Kansas faced 12-seed Richmond and then 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth. It looked like the easiest possible route to another national championship. Enter the most colossal upset of the tournament so far. Of course, the Jayhawks are still the Jayhawks, and if the Morris twins stick around for their senior season, the team could make it as far or farther in 2012.

Texas: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 13-3 Big 12, 28-8 overall The Longhorns escaped the distinction of being an early upset with an 85-81 victory over 13-seed Oakland but lost in the waning seconds of its next game, a one-point heartbreaker against Arizona. There was discussion of a questionable call at the end of the game, but here’s my take on that: How many free throws did Texas miss? How many shots did Texas miss? How many turnovers did Texas commit? Each one of those was a missed opportunity. If those had been taken advantage of, the game might not have needed to come down to the final play anyway. While there are certainly bad calls on occasion, officiating is never an excuse for losing, in my opinion. Next season, Texas will be a younger team, as year’s squad had five seniors, but with the leadership of Rick Barnes and the older players that remain, the Longhorns will likely be a tournament team again in 2012.

Texas A&M: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 24-9 overall The Aggies had a very nice season, getting off to a 16-1 start. In Big 12 play, though, the team went on several skids when faced with competition from the better half of the league. It lost four of five games through January and early February, and it lost four of six to end the season. Texas A&M received a bid to the tournament but lost to 10-seed Florida State in the first round. There’s potential here; it will be interesting to see whether the Aggies can continue the momentum of this season with a repeat performance in six months or so.

Kansas State: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 23-11 overall It’s hard to describe the Wildcats’ season without using the roller coaster cliche, considering the team began the season ranked No. 3 in the country and then completely fell out of the rankings as the team’s seniors were suspended, two players quit the team, and K-State started the conference schedule 1-4 … only to rebound with a six-game winning streak to finish the season and receive a 5-seed in the Big Dance. There will be questions about next year’s team, as it will be without Jacob Pullen for the first time in four years, but there were questions about this year’s team, too, and it didn’t turn out badly.

Missouri: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 8-8 Big 12, 23-11 overall The “Will he stay or will he go?”  merry-go-round has finally ground to a halt in Columbia. Head coach Mike Anderson declined a contract extension from the school in favor of taking the same job at the University of Arkansas, where the coach spent 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson and won a national championship in 1994. Leaving gracefully is a hard thing to do, and whether Anderson did so is hard to say. At least, though, he will be somewhere he wants to be, and Missouri can move on to a coach who definitely wants to be in Columbia and is not distracted by the possibilities of going elsewhere.

Colorado: 8-8 Big 12, 24-13 overall The Buffaloes have been recognized as one of those teams – every year, it’s the same story – that should have been included in the tournament field but was not. They beat Kansas State three times this season, and they also vanquished Texas and Missouri – all of whom made it into the tournament easily. If you look at the Colorado home page on ESPN.com, you’ll see a video clip labeled “Dick Vitale on the teams snubbed by the NCAA tournament” and articles in the news section with titles like “How to improve tourney selection process.” More than likely, being a No. 1 seed in the NIT was little consolation. If head coach Tad Boyle and next year’s team (minus the six seniors it had this season) continue on this way, I’d be surprised if the Buffaloes get left out of the tourney in 2012.

Nebraska: 7-9 Big 12, 19-13 overall The Huskers also had an up-and-down season, and like the Wildcats, they struggled some on the road and were nearly unbeatable at home. In Nebraska’s last seven games of this season, it played two ranked teams – Texas and Missouri. It won both those games … but lost the other four. The Huskers lived up to that Big 12 stereotype of being able to beat any team on any given day, but it didn’t happen often enough.

Baylor: 7-9 Big 12, 18-13 overall The Bears had two wins over ranked opponents this season … only it was really just one opponent, Texas A&M, whom they beat in overtime in College Station and by seven points in Waco. Baylor’s on-court issues mirrored those off the court. There was LaceDarius Dunn, mentioned in conjunction with assault (later cleared by a grand jury), and just recently it was decided by the NCAA that freshman Perry Jones -who averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season – will have to miss five games at the beginning of next season if he stays. While the Baylor administration is arguing that it’s getting a raw dealer (see Cam Newton), it is what it is. It could be awhile before the Bears can piece together a decent season.

Oklahoma State: 6-10 Big 12, 20-14 overall For all their struggles, the Cowboys came within four points of a five-game winning streak to end the season. They beat Texas Tech and Baylor in Stillwater, lost 64-61 at Oklahoma, defeated Nebraska 53-52 back in Stillwater, and finished out the regular season with a loss to Kansas by a single point, 63-62, in Lawrence. Tiny-but-mighty guard Keiton Page will be the team’s only senior next season, and five players will be juniors, so depending on who gets playing time, the youth of the team might lead to some inconsistencies.

Texas Tech: 5-11 Big 12, 13-19 overall Honestly, I really like Pat Knight. Having talked to him at Big 12 media day in Kansas City and listened to him at K-State post game press conference this season, I think he has some serious understanding of the game of basketball. With that said, he stated at the beginning of this season that after three seasons, it was a “get-an-extension or get-fired type of year” for him.We all know how that ended, and now Billy Gillispie has signed a five-year deal as head coach of the Red Raiders. According to an ESPN report on the hiring, Gillispie has a good reputation in Texas because before he coached at Kentucky, he helped rebuild the programs of UTEP and Texas A&M. However, he has had his share of problems – if he gets a fourth DUI, as ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb pointed out, his five-year stay with the Red Raiders could be much shorter.

Oklahoma: 5-11 Big 12, 14-18 overall The Sooners’ season ended with a 20-point loss to then-No. 10 Texas, and head coach Jeff Capel was promptly fired. Blake Griffin, recruited by Capel and now an NBA star because of his incredible dunks, contacted ESPN.com to express his feelings about the matter, saying that while he did not profess to know everything about basketball, he recognized Capel as a great coach and felt the university made a mistake by firing him.

Iowa State: 3-13 Big 12, 16-16 By the record, there is no recourse but to assume the Cyclones were bad this year. Maybe more than bad; 3-13 sounds more like it fits into the category of “awful.” If you dig just a bit deeper though, you see a glimmer of hope. Three of Iowa State’s Big 12 games went into overtime; many more the Cyclones lost by single digits. It was head coach Fred Hoiberg’s first season, and the team still challenged the vast majority of its opponents; it wasn’t like the Cyclones rolled over for anyone. It may take a couple years (especially with a considerable number of players graduating now) but this team could be a sleeper down the road.

K-State done for tournament; Martin, not so much

26 Mar

The Wildcats may be out of the tournament, but head coach Frank Martin’s involvement is not yet complete, as CBS has requested his services as a guest analyst this weekend. The team’s sports information director said he will be in the studio from 5:30 to 9:30 CT. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I will tune in to watch, as will many others, I’m sure. While the coach’s comments should informative and entertaining for viewers, they accomplish a myriad of other objectives as well.

First of all, what great exposure for Kansas State University. Certainly, the Wildcats have been in the news all season – good news at the beginning of the season and the end of the season, and slightly-more-iffy news in the middle portion. Now, an audience of millions will see the team’s fearless/fearsome leader talking about the game, bringing to mind the team, its storylines, and the university in general.

Secondly, this gives people an opportunity to see Martin in a normal environment – not the intense two-hour span of a basketball game, not the post-game press conference when he is annoyed about a loss and is very ready to go home. When I tell people outside K-State that Martin is really a nice person, sometimes there is a little skepticism. For him to be on here analyzing other teams, it gives people some insight into his intelligence as a coach, his sense of humor, and the cordial personality that is underneath that scary stare and physically imposing demeanor.

Last but not least, Martin’s turn as an analyst will be one more opportunity for all the Wildcat fans to see him in action, and that’s nice, because let’s face it: March is a whole lot less interesting without him.

K-State Report Card: Defense, Rebounding, Offense

19 Mar

Defense: C

In the first half of this game against Wisconsin, the Wildcats seemed to have trouble rotating on defense. Wisconsin is moving the ball well – 7 assists on 11 made shots – and the more the Badgers pass, the more the Wildcats have to reposition. The longer that process takes, the harder it is to play man-to-man defense. Whipping the ball around the perimeter usually leads to finding an open man eventually, and as a result, Wisconsin shot 50 from the floor.

Leading up to this game, head coach Frank Martin said Wisconsin’s big men would make the Wildcats defend pick and roll situations. Because Jordan Taylor is such a capable shooter and shoots so often, going under the ball screen doesn’t work. As such is the case, other tactics must be employed – Martin did not specify what those would be, but he said his team’s success in handling those scenarios would determine its level of success.

Offense: C

The Wildcats had a rough 20 minutes to start the game. For the majority of the first half, only Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly had scored, while Wisconsin had eight players with something other than 0 in the points column. Pullen ended the half with 17 points, while Kelly added 9, and the only other scoring came from Rodney McGruder (3 points) and Juevol Myles (1 point).

Rebounding: B-

In the first half of this game, the Badgers outrebounded the Wildcats 14-9, and its total included five offensive rebounds.

Martin had emphasized rebounding as a key to the game because the Badgers monopolize the clock every time they get possession. If they get an offensive board, the Wildcats have to play defense for another 30 seconds. If they get a defensive board, the Wildcats have to go through that offensive process all over again. Basically, the Badgers try to exhaust teams by making them defend for a large part of the game.

Keys to the game from Frank, Curt & Jake

19 Mar

Throughout the season, fans and sports reporters talk about must-win games. Coaches and players fall back on the predictable – but reasonable – rhetoric that every game is a must-win game. This time of year, it’s actually true. No win, no more basketball. Today, the team standing between the Kansas State Wildcats and some more basketball is the Wisconsin Badgers.

According to K-State head coach Frank Martin, keys to the game include keeping the Badgers out of rhythm and rebounding the ball.

“If you give them an offensive rebound, they’re either scoring or pulling it out, and now you are guarding for 30 more seconds and that makes it for a long possession,” Martin said.

Wisconsin is notorious for slowing down the game. In the Big 10 tournament, the Badgers lost to Penn State … 36-33. No I’m not kidding. That’s not a misprint – not the halftime score. They grind down the shot clock and then crash the boards to try and start the possession all over again and do the same thing.

This game will be, among other elements, all about the Js – Jacob Pullen and Jordan Taylor. It should be a pretty compelling matchup. Pullen said Taylor does a good job of using the shot clock, lulling defenders to sleep before taking over a possession. That means the Wildcats have to employ a little variety in stopping him.

“We have to do a great job of defending the ball screen and keeping him in a position where he doesn’t know what kind of defense we’re playing, whether we’re trapping it or soft hedging the ball screen,” Pullen said. “Just really keep him guessing. The other thing is we really got to make him guard. Whoever he is guarding, we have to make sure he plays 36, 37 minutes a game, we’ve got to make sure he is using his energy on both ends, not only on offensive end.”

While Frank Martin said it would be exceedingly difficult to slow down Wisconsin, he said his team has to keep Taylor out of rhythm, not allow him to get comfortable, and to keep him out of the paint.

“When he gets in the paint, then he forces help and then he finds shooters,” Martin said. “They put five shooters out there, four shooters, he is a shooter also, but four other guys outside of him, so then that puts tremendous pressure on your rotations to get to that next shooter. “

Working against the Badgers’ swing offense will be a challenge for the Wildcats, particularly for the forwards because Wisconsin’s big men step out further from the lane than, forcing their defenders to step out and guard further from the basket.

K-State senior forward Curtis Kelly will be one of the players handling this transition, likely matching up against Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer, a 6’10” forward who can shoot from 3-point range.

“I’m going to have to come off screens,” Kelly said. “Instead of dealing with a lot of cross screens I’m going to have to deal with a lot of down screens and stagger screens. And me being a big, that’s going to be a little difficult. But, you know, I’m going to try to do my best to guard the player they want me to guard as best I can.”

Martin said if his team allows Wisconsin to move the ball freely side to side and get it in the paint, the Wildcats will be in trouble because that means Kelly and fellow forward Jordan Henriquez-Roberts get dragged out of the lane, and those are the guys that protect the rim. However, the coach said K-State has faced similar scenarios before, such as playing Iowa State and trying to contain Diante Garrett coming off the ball screen.

“We’ll work on that some today and use some of the experiences from the season to hopefully get us as ready as we can,” Martin said.