February 17, 2009

K-State's confidence grows with easy win

Just three days after suffering a difficult loss at the hands of its biggest rival, Kansas State returned to the court Tuesday night without the services of star guard Denis Clemente. The Wildcats wouldn't suffer from any hangover, however, or miss the suspended Clemente against an overmatched North Carolina Central bunch on their way to an easy 95-49 win in front of 7,681 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.

"After the KU game (coach) Frank (Martin) talked to us, and we knew we would go out and win this game, but it was all about how we were going to do it," sophomore forward Dominique Sutton said. "Were we going to win it by 15 or 20 points, or would our focus be on just playing like we had been playing? We wanted to get back to how we've been playing and not let one game let us down."

With the Wildcats closing in on the stretch run of the Big 12 Conference season, Martin had hoped to see a complete performance out of his team.

"It's that time of year, that's what I told the team after the Kansas game. It's so late in the season that you can't be battling ups and downs, emotional highs and lows," Martin said. "You've played enough games where you should be able to keep an even keel. That's kind of the approach we took. I was really happy with the energy our guys came out and played with."

The Eagles entered the contest with a 2-23 overall record, and it became apparent immediately that they weren't capable of providing the Wildcats with a test. K-State (18-8, 6-5 Big 12) grabbed a 10-3 lead just more than three minutes into the game and continued its dominance throughout. An 11-0 spurt midway through the first half allowed the Wildcats to extend their lead to 16 at 27-11 with 9:48 remaining before halftime. By the time the break arrived K-State held a commanding 46-24 lead over the Eagles (2-24).

The Wildcats shot 62.1 percent from the field in the first half compared to the Eagles 28.6 percent effort and held a 23-14 rebounding edge over NCCU. Wildcat forward Luis Colon did plenty of work on the glass in the first half, pulling down seven rebounds in 15 minutes of action to lead K-State.

The only thing to go wrong for K-State in the first half came in the form of an injury to Darren Kent, who didn't return in the second half for precautionary reasons after taking a shot in the head on a drive to the basket with 8:29 left in the first half. Martin said that Kent was fine afterwards.

Even without Kent, the play in the second half still resembled that of the first. The Wildcats continued to flourish offensively - they finished the game shooting 60.3 percent - and dominate on the glass (47-22) against an NCCU team with only three players taller than 6-foot-5 on its roster.

The win served as a confidence booster to a number of Wildcats. Sutton, for example, struggled in the loss to Kansas but bounced back to lead the Wildcats offensively against the Eagles. He finished with 16 points and eight rebounds on five of six shooting from the floor.

"It was one of those games to get my confidence back and get back in the flow of the offense," Sutton said. "It's a game that helps me get my mind right going into the next game."

Sutton was joined in double figures by Jamar Samuels (14 points and six rebounds), Fred Brown (12 points) and Buchi Awaji (12). Both Colon (12 points and 12 rebounds) and fellow forward Ron Anderson, who scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, finished with double doubles.

"We got a lot of guys the opportunity to get more minutes than they've been getting lately, which is something that's needed," Martin said. "That's something that needed to take place."

Things don't figure to be as easy when the Wildcats next return to action, as K-State jumps back into Big 12 play on Saturday at Iowa State.

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