February 11, 2009

Fast start helps K-State blow by Tech

Some worried that Kansas State might get caught looking ahead to this weekend's matchup with rival Kansas during Wednesday night's game against struggling Texas Tech. Turns out there was no reason for the Wildcats to worry. K-State cruised past the Red Raiders inside of Bramlage Coliseum, 85-73, and now the Wildcats can turn their attention Saturday's showdown with the Jayhawks.

K-State (17-7, 6-4 Big 12 Conference) asserted itself early against Texas Tech (12-12, 2-7), and whether or not the Wildcats would run their winning streak to six games was essentially never in doubt. The final margin of 12 points hardly told the story of K-State's dominance.

"We had great intensity like we wanted to," senior forward Darren Kent said. "We preached that all week, that we wanted to come out with high intensity and take them out of their offense, create some turnovers to get our offense going, and that's what we did."

K-State said last year's disappointing loss at Texas Tech provided all the motivation needed to get off to a fast start, and the Wildcats wasted little time in jumping all over the Red Raiders. By the first media timeout with 15:03 remaining K-State had already raced out to a 12-2 lead. A Fred Brown 3-pointer shortly out of the break extended the Wildcat lead to 15-2, and by the time Dominique Sutton scored his ninth first-half point with just more than 10 minutes remaining before halftime the Wildcats owned a commanding 24-5 advantage.

K-State would hold a lead as big as 26 in the opening half before eventually taking a 49-25 advantage into the break.

The Wildcat defense was stifling at times during the first half, as the Red Raiders shot just 40 percent from the field while turning the ball over 11 times. K-State was able to turn that defense into offense, scoring 10 points off turnovers and knocking down 51.4 percent of its field goal tries in the first 20 minutes.

"Our kids came out, and we contested everything those first 16 minutes of the game," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "I didn't think we played particularly well offensively the first four or five minutes, but as the half went on our pressure started creating better opportunities for us."

"They just killed us to start the game," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "When you are playing anyone in this league, you can't afford to get off to a start like that. (K-State) is playing the best of any team in the league right now."

Tech never seriously threatened after the break despite the fact K-State rested starting guards Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen for a good part of the second half. Kent provided much of the offensive punch with those two earning some valuable rest, as he connected on eight of 10 field goal tries and finished with a team-high 18 points to go along with six rebounds.

"I worked really hard on my game this summer offensively. During games, I just try to assert myself and be more aggressive on the offensive side," Kent said. "The team has been doing a great job of finding me open and having confidence in me knocking down shots."

"Ever since that Nebraska game he's continued to play better and better," Martin added. "Defensively he's really playing well. Offensively he's playing like a guy with a lot of confidence; that's a credit to him."

Clemente (15), Pullen (12) and Sutton (12) joined Kent in double figures for the Wildcats. Nick Okorie (21), Alan Voskuil (17) and John Robinson (11) scored in double figures for the Red Raiders.

K-State's intensity did fall off some in the final minutes, as the Wildcats' 20-plus point lead was trimmed to 12 by the final buzzer. Martin made clear after the game he wasn't happy with the way the game finished after such an impressive start.

"It's a win," he said. "We've got to take those first 16 minutes, bottle them up and get our guys to understand that's how we need to play more consistently."

The Wildcats will look to claim their seventh straight victory when the Jayhawks visit Manhattan on Saturday. K-State fell to Kansas earlier this season in Lawrence, 87-71, and now the Wildcats can focus their attention on avenging that loss.

"We are feeling good. We're moving on now. This game is over with," Sutton said. "We're moving on to KU. We're excited that we won six straight games, but we have to move forward now."

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