January 26, 2008

Beasley's big day shoots Cats past ISU

Talk about throwing fuel on a fire. As if the Kansas State's' upcoming meeting with in-state rival Kansas needed any more drama, the Wildcats' 82-57 stomping of Iowa State turned Wednesday's already hyped rivalry game into a showdown for exclusive ownership of the Big 12 lead. So while it's understandable that many fans wondered about K-State star freshman Michael Beasley and his teammates' focus heading into Saturday's game with the Cyclones, Beasley and company put their fans' minds at ease.

"Coach always tells us that our biggest game is our next one," Beasley said following Saturday's game. "We know we can't look past anyone. This is a strong conference, and we can go down at any time."

Beasley turned in his biggest performance of the young conference season against the Cyclones, torching Iowa State for 33 points and hauling in 15 rebounds in K-State's 14th win of the season, helping the K-State pick up its 1,400th all-time victory and go to 4-0 in conference play for just the sixth time in school history.

"This has been a good start for us," said K-State freshman guard Jacob Pullen. "We want to keep building off of it. We are really playing together now. We're playing like a team, and it's paying off on the court."

With Beasley leading the way, K-State (14-4 overall) opened the second half of Saturday's game with a 12-6 run. The 6-foot-10 forward was responsible for nine of the Wildcats' first 10 second-half points, and pulled down nine rebounds in the final period of a game that Beasley helped put on ice early.

"I wouldn't have sat here in September and told you guys that he's special, if I didn't think he was special," K-State coach Frank Martin said of Beasley following Saturday's win.

The Wildcats outscored Iowa State 36-27 in the final 20 minutes of Saturday's contest, putting the Cyclones away early in the second half, and giving Martin an opportunity to rest his starters for much of the game's second half. Beasley and Bill Walker, who added 10 points and nine rebounds, played just 22 minutes apiece.

If K-State had a problem area Saturday, it was defending the perimeter. The Wildcats allowed the Cyclones to shoot 9 for 22 from long range, and gave up four 3-pointers to Iowa State sophomore Wesley Johnson alone, setting off an alarm that will need to be silenced before K-State takes the court with the guard-heavy Jayhawks just four days from now.

"We allowed their shooter, Wesley Johnson, to kind of get going there," Martin said of his team's problems defending the perimeter. "Luckily, we were able to make 3s two times after he made them, but you can't depend on making 3s. You have to depend on taking teams out of their strengths."

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