January 28, 2009

K-State hits its stride in win over Tigers

Kansas State needed overtime to inch past Colorado for its first Big 12 Conference win of the season last Saturday. The Wildcats made sure Wednesday night's game against Missouri wouldn't require such a dramatic finish. K-State dominated the Tigers from start to finish inside of Bramlage Coliseum to earn their second straight league win, 88-72.


Missouri (17-4, 4-2) loves to play at a fast pace, and the Wildcats (13-7, 2-4) quickly made it apparent that they were comfortable playing at such a speed.


"We played well tonight," K-State guard Jacob Pullen said. "It was our intensity today. We wanted to come out and scare them, show them how aggressive we could be."


Many times this season Missouri has been the team applying early pressure to its opponent, and the Tigers admitted they didn't react well when the roles were reversed.


"They really brought the fight to us, and we didn't fight back," Missouri's DeMarre Carroll said. "They threw that first punch. We never really punched back."


K-State simply opened the game with more energy than the Tigers. By the time Missouri called a timeout with 12:42 remaining in the opening half the Wildcats had already built a 13-6 lead. Martin's team had 15 field goal attempts to Missouri's five, and the Tigers had already turned the ball over six times.


Missouri was able to rebound and would eventually slice the deficit to three at 20-17 with just less than 10 minutes left to play in the first half, but the Wildcats immediately responded with a 13-1 run over the next five minutes to take a 33-18 lead and grab control of the contest.


Jamar Samuels helped spark the Cats' run by scoring 11 first-half points to go along with four rebounds and two assists.


"He's active," K-State coach Frank Martin said of Samuels, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks. "I told him in practice yesterday that he has got to get back to playing with that unbelievable enthusiasm that helps make him a special player. He was all over the place in the first half."


At the close of the first half K-State had built a 46-33 lead thanks in large part to its offensive efficiency. The Wildcats knocked down 48.7 percent of its first-half field goal tries, including makes on 5 of 12 3-point attempts. K-State also scored 18 points off 13 Tiger turnovers.


The Wildcats got off to a quick start to start the second half as well, as Pullen knocked down three straight 3-pointers to open the half and give the Wildcats what was their biggest lead of the night at 55-37 with 17:42 left in the contest.


"Pullen was just lights out to begin the second half," Missouri's Matt Lawrence said. "That just kind of ruined our comeback."


Lawrence finished with 17 points and knocked down 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range. He was joined in double figures by Carroll (19) and Leo Lyons, who finished with 13.


Pullen and Samuels seemingly had an answer every time Missouri tried to battled back, and the Wildcats would stretch their lead to 21 after back-to-back dunks and a 3-pointer from Samuels with nearly 12 minutes still left to play.


K-State's lead would grow to as large as 25 in the second half, as the Wildcats never cooled down offensively. Martin's bunch finished the game shooting 53 percent from the floor and 54.4 percent from behind the arc. Pullen finished with 23 points to lead K-State. Fred Brown added 17 and Denis Clemente scored 10 points to go along with seven assists.


Those numbers show that even though the game was played at the pace Missouri wanted, it also turned out to be the rate that best suited Martin's bunch.


"I don't believe in half-court basketball," Martin said. "I know it works for some people, and I respect that. But I believe in playing up-tempo."


And as quickly as that, the Wildcats, who were sitting at 0-4 in the Big 12 last week, head into Saturday's game at Texas feeling much better about themselves.

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