January 5, 2009

Cats pour it on against Chicago State

So he wasn't coaching against Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas, but if you're Kansas State head coach Frank Martin, it's hard not to feel good about your team's 99-68 pounding of 8-8 Chicago State on Monday. With Big 12 play now staring Martin and his Wildcats squarely in the eyes, they'll have to be at their best every night, which, at least for stretches, is where they were against the Cougars.

Still, it's common knowledge that being great "at times" won't be good enough to get the job done in the weeks ahead.

"I think we're ready (for Big 12 play)," said sophomore guard Fred Brown, who scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the win. "The lapses (need to be addressed). We just have to have that mentality to smell blood but still keep going."

And even aside from Brown's big night and senior forward Daren Kent's 13-point, 12-rebound performance, there were plenty of bright spots for Martin's bunch.

Not only was this a game in which the K-State scored 99 points, but also one in which it held the country's second leading scorer to 7 of 25 shooting. Then, there's the fact that the Wildcats held the Cougars, one of the nation's top scoring teams, 12 points under their season average.

A man of his word, Martin says his teams have always been about defense, and this year's squad certainly looked the part against Chicago State.

"(Defense) is the point of emphasis during the week of practice," said Kent, whose double-double against Chicago State was his fourth of the year. " ... We just need to keep getting to the ball and keep pressuring the ball. Usually, that creates most of our offense. That's definitely a big part of our team."

But while K-State has been the model of consistency on defense this season, they have been quite the opposite on the free throw line, and Monday's game served as a microcosm of that.

The Wildcats shot just 65 percent from the line in the first half but followed that up by shooting 87 percent in the second half. It was the exact type of inconsistency that has plagued Martin's squad at times this year, but at the same time, it's not something the second-year head coach is losing sleep over.

"We work at it. Our guys make free throws in practice," Martin said. "We went through a stretch of games where I didn't think we focused as much as we needed to individually to make shots from the free-throw line, but I don't get worried about things I see our players do. I see our players make free throws in practice."

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