If you like offense, Kansas State’s 63-53 victory over Missouri on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum was not for you.
But if you appreciate defense, hard-fought battles and conference title/postseason implications, you likely saw past the mountain of missed shots and enjoyed the wrestling match.
I’m guessing most K-State fans fall into that second group today. By grinding out a win over Mizzou, it now has a real shot at catching Kansas in the Big 12 standings and earning a share of the conference’s regular season championship.
It will take a win at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday (which won’t be easy against an angry group of Jayhawks) a win against Iowa State on Saturday (which will be easy at home) and another Kansas loss at Missouri (which will be a toss up, according to kenpom.com).
The Wildcats aren’t in control of their own destiny, but they will have a lot to say about the importance of those regular season finales. Win in Lawrence, and they have a 50/50 shot at earning some hardware.
Considering how low those numbers appeared at the end of January, K-State has done very well for itself.
While Kansas won its first 13 conference games, the Wildcats kept plugging away. They have now won seven straight, and went undefeated in the month of February.
Granted, the schedule wasn’t all that rigorous, and some of the games (like Saturday’s) weren’t pretty, but picking up wins is the only thing that matters to these Wildcats.
“It is the difference between our team now and our team at the beginning of this season, last year and the year before,” coach Frank Martin said. “We are going to play hard, that is not an option for our team. So we are going to play hard. What affected us was when we have nights like tonight, where we miss shots, it affected our spirit and then you would have the breakdowns. For the most part, we didn’t do that today. We were about staying the course.”
Emptying the notebook:
– With the halftime score tied at 23-23, things were ugly enough for some to make Big 10 comparisons.
The two teams combined to go 15 of 64 from the field. At one point in the first half, K-State was cold enough to miss 18 straight.
Martin, though, said he wasn’t displeased.
“We went down and got the shots we wanted, we just didn’t make any of them,” Martin said. “But I was happy with how we played. I was happy at halftime, when it was tied. For as good as we were on offense, we just did not make shots. Being tied, I was pleased.”
– As tough as it was to score Saturday, everyone who saw time for K-State made at least a free throw.
– K-State’s 24 wins are the third most in program history.
– Offense came easier for the Wildcats in the second half. The reason? They got their big men involved.
“Our big guys posted up and we threw the ball inside,” Martin said. “The first time we played, we never did that. Today our bigs worked, and they were rewarded because we threw the ball in there.”
– It must be hard to officiate games between Missouri and Kansas State. The first time they played, the referees called everything under the arena’s lights. And people insisted they ruined the game.
On Saturday, officials called 43 fouls and the crowd was all over them once again. It’s a tough job. Still, both games could have been officiated better.
– Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts appear to have replaced fellow freshmen Rodney McGruder and Wally Judge in K-State’s rotation.
Irving and Henriquez-Roberts played 27 minutes on Saturday compared to zero for McGruder and Judge.
– K-State was mentioned as a potential No. 1 seed by the College Gameday crew on ESPN last night. The Wildcats are starting to earn some national respect.
Player of the game: Curtis Kelly picked up an impressive double-double and dished out four assists, blocked three shots and made two steals. He filled up the stat sheet and was K-State’s most consistent player.
Play of the game: There weren’t many memorable plays in this one, but for some reason Jordan Henriquez-Robert’s baseline jumper near the end of the first half seems important. Seeing that shot unexpectedly go down gave the Wildcats some MUCH needed confidence on offense.
Do this again: K-State’s ability to get to the free-throw line was topnotch. It shot more than 30 freebies, while Missouri was stuck in the teens.
Try to avoid: I don’t care how well K-State plays defense, it can’t afford to miss 18 straight shots again.
Bottom line: A beautiful game, it was not. But K-State got the job done. Now comes the most important business trip of the year.