MARTIN DEFLECTS CRITICISM OF RODRIGUEZ

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Coming off the "worst game of my life," K-State's Angel Rodriguez took it to Baylor on Saturday in a 57-56 upset of the nationally ranked Bears. Rodriguez continued to be plagued by turnovers, but he made up for those with his 15 points, six assists and four steals.

As rough and gruff as Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin can be at times, he also has that protective side of his collection of 18- to 22-year-old Wildcat sons.

The latest example of that came in trying to deflect criticism toward Angel Rodriguez after his sub-par showing in Monday's 59-53 loss to the University of Kansas. In 27 minutes, the Wildcat freshman went 0-of-8 from the field and committed seven turnovers.

Of his own game, the Wildcat guard said, "That was the worst game of my life, and I do not mean college career … my whole, entire life. Mentally, I got into the film room and watched it over and over, just so I will not make the same mistakes again. But to be honest, when I think about the KU game, all I think about is negative stuff and trying to make it into a positive."

While not ignoring the issues that Rodriguez had against Kansas, and in other games, Martin said, "It's encouraging when a young man continues to show fight and shows up the next day eager to get better."

That toughness showed Saturday in Waco, Texas, where K-State defeated Baylor, 57-56, as Rodriguez hit 7 of his 12 shots, scored 15 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals in his 39 minutes of play. But yes, Rodriguez also had 4 turnovers.

Martin reminded fans that Rodriguez, as a 19-year-old, should not be compared to Jacob Pullen's heroics as a 22-year-old freshman, or, to the greatness of Denis Clemente as a 23-year-old senior.

Martin pointed out, "Jacob went to Oregon once early in his career and went 2-of-17 with eight turnovers. He had some bumps, too. But the reason that I never quit on him was because he never quit on himself. That is what you look for as a coach. You look back on Denis' career at Miami as a freshman, and he had his ups and downs just like Angel is."

Martin then added when it comes to point guards in the Big 12, "There is no forgiveness, and it makes you grow up. Angel is a tough little kid. Angel is not going away."

Of a possible change in the lineup, Martin quickly put such an idea to rest entering today's 12:30 contest at Baylor: "Having Angel and Will (Spradling) at the guards gives us two guys that have the ability to be high assist guys. Martavious (Irving) is more of a slasher, an attack kind of guy, which is why I like to have him coming off the bench. I feel we are at our best with those two guys (Rodriguez and Spradling) at guard right now."

K-State is now 26 games into the season, with another seven to 10 games left to be played. Most high schoolers like Rodriguez, Thomas Gipson and Adrian Diaz had already checked in equipment at the end of a season that didn't reach 25 games.

Of that possibly being a factor with K-State's rookie class, Martin said, "I don't know if they've hit the wall, or the wall has hit them. Angel has been OK, but Thomas and Adrian have been dragging around a little bit lately. That happens. That's why it's so hard to depend on young kids who have never been through the demands of college. That's not college basketball, but college, plus that competitiveness of practice and how hard every single game is."

The Wildcat coach added, "They're not physically tired. They're young. But they are allowing their minds to tell them that they're tired. Jamar's not physically tired because he's been through it five years and is more prepared to handle the total season."

What would help all the Wildcats is doing a better job of what the game is all about … that's putting the round leather ball through the orange iron hoop. It's what K-State has consistently lacked in the last two weeks of the season having games of 64, 65, 65, 53 and 57 points, with only one team shooting night of more than 44 percent.

Asked about the recent stretch of games, Martin said, "That circular orange thing finding that piece of twin that hangs at the rim. That is the one thing that is missing."

He added, "It's hard to beat anybody if the ball does not go into the basket. It is impossible to beat at top-five team if you do not make shots. You have to make shots."


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