Earlier this season, Kansas State was a methodical basketball team. When it built leads, it did so slowly. Points were hard to come by and big runs were scarce.
But during Saturday’s 77-62 victory over Oklahoma at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats proved they have progressed from their early-season form. Sure, the Sooners aren’t anything special, but K-State lit them up for big, fast scoring spurts that turned the final score into a blowout.
In the first half, the Wildcats went on runs of 13-0 and 9-0 to take a 39-24 lead. In the second half, after allowing the Sooners to make things interesting with less than 6 minutes remaining, they responded with a 14-0 run.
What’s different between then and now?
“We pass the ball,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “The ball doesn’t stop.”
Added senior guard Jacob Pullen: “We’re executing our offense. Frank is designing up some good plays. Our assistant coaches are drawing up some good plays. They’re reading the defense and calling out some sets. We’re executing. We’re getting the looks that we want, and, at the same time, defensively we’re going back and giving teams one shot. When we can play defense like that and execute on offense it gives us a good shot to win games.”
It also makes K-State a more dangerous team. Before Martin switched up his offense in the middle of the season and began using a four-guard lineup for extended periods of time, K-State struggled to hold onto leads.
Late runs by Oklahoma State and Colorado are the reason it is .500 in conference play today instead of 8-4. All of a sudden, though, K-State feels capable of coming back in any situation, or turning any small lead into a big one quickly.
“It helps our team morale,” Pullen said. “It helps everything, because we believe that a lead is not safe with us or against us. We know we can make a run and destroy your lead. And we also know we can make a run and just explode the lead.”
On Saturday, the Wildcats accomplished the latter feat by making 10 three-pointers, coming up with 12 steals and scoring 16 fast-break points. Pullen led the effort with 27 points, while Rodney McGruder added 20.
Martin loved every second of it.
“I’ve never been a big motion offense guy,” he said, “because you’ve got a shot clock. You’ve got to go attack.”
It took considerable amounts of work for them to learn how to attack.
“We’ve got to become a better running team again,” Martin said. “We’ve had to spend so much time teaching the offense that we’ve gotten away from practicing some other things, such as running and our defense.
“Those two things have slipped a little bit, because we’ve had to devote so much time to our guys understanding the offense, but I think it’s something that was very important for us to understand. As young as our guys are, our guys didn’t understand how to move without the ball, they didn’t understand some things …
“Because we had so many young guys who don’t understand how to play without the basketball our turnovers were high. We were giving games away because of our bad decision making. We had to do something. Our ability to run offense, to learn how to play without the ball to pass the ball and not let the ball stand … We’ve gotten better at that. It’s something we had to learn.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jacob Pullen. Fresh off a 38-point outing against Kansas, the senior guard hit Oklahoma with 27.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Carl Blair is going to regret picking up his technical for some time. His blunder was the spark that changed the momentum late in the game. When it happened, K-State led 55-50. Less than 2 minutes later, K-State led 69-50.
THAT WAS SWEET
K-State made 19 of 21 shots from the free-throw line. Not a typo. The Wildcats appear to have finally learned how to make free throws.
WHAT A DOWNER
The Wildcats executed poorly on defense at the start of the second half and allowed a 15-point game to become close for a few moments.
K-State’s trip to Nebraska could end up being the game of the week in the Big 12. Both teams are .500 in conference play and are coming off huge wins. The Wildcats beat top-ranked Kansas earlier this week. The Cornhuskers gave Texas its first conference loss of the season yesterday.
SAY WHAT? “The atmosphere is so loud. I can imagine it’s a lot of fun to play in front of,” – Wichita Heights standout Perry Ellis on Bramlage Coliseum.