Averting the road woes

The Kansas State men's basketball team hasn't won a road game this season -- a 0-5 record that wreaks of a triple-overtime loss at Oregon State and an embarrassing 93-52 thumping at Missouri-Kansas City. But the losing streak extends beyond simply this season.

Kansas State has actually lost its last 24 regular season road games, the last W coming at Colorado on March 8, 2001. Before that Kansas State had lost 9 of 10 road games, giving the Wildcats a 2-33 record on the road since the 1999-2000 season. Some of the losses during that stretch include Old Dominion, Memphis and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

With that kind of history, one would expect the Wildcats to dread the 6 p.m. tip from the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo. Saturday night. But Jarrett Hart said the Cats are eager to get back on the road.

"It's going to be good to get back on the road," he said. "We haven't had a win (on the road) in a while -- all year long. Everybody's aware of that. We know that."

The Wildcats are at their healthiest since early in the season. Cartier Martin, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Houston, is expected to be close to 100 percent for the first time in weeks. He had been recovering from an ankle injury and played sparingly in the Cats' 78-70 loss to Kansas. Martin had led the Wildcats in scoring five consecutive games early in the season, and he said KU was the first step in getting back to form.

"Hopefully I can go a little more and contribute to my team a little more," Martin said. "I've been practicing for maybe two or three days, but I've been working out myself for about a week and a half. I'm 90 to 95 percent -- a little ways to go."

Missouri is coming off an 83-70 upset loss at Colorado, and has struggled to an 8-8 record after being picked in the top 10 in the nation in many preseason polls.

The Tigers will be without its first-off-the-bench backup Linas Kleiza and his 11 points per game after Kleiza seperated his shoulder against the Buffaloes. Still, the inside-outside duo of Ricky Paulding (15.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Arthur Johnson (13.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) concern Coach Jim Wooldridge.

But he'll admit nothing worries the Wildcat coach more than his own team.

"This team is yet to put together a complete game in the league," Wooldridge said. "You look at turnovers, free throw percentage, the things that say we've played a complete game, and we haven't done that. We have lots of questions yet to answer and this is the absolute worst time of the year to answer questions. But that's the way it is right now."

One of those questions is how to solidify a starting lineup. Senior guard Frank Richards didn't start the Kansas game, the first time in his career he hadn't started at Kansas State. Dramane Diarra started but played just 16 minutes. Wooldridge said he wanted to get freshman guard Dez Willingham more minutes, but the only locks Saturday are guards Tim Ellis and Hart. Junior college transfer Jeremiah Massey, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds in just 23 minutes against the Jayhawks, may also get the nod after being the most productive Wildcat on Wednesday.

"We just have to stick together," Ellis said, "do everything and be on the same page. It's our choice on how we want the season to go. If you want to get better you go out and fight and get better. We just have to fight and not give up. We play so well and so hard in practice, but we come to the game and its hard to lose."

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

MISSOURI
G 1 Jimmy McKinney 6-3 205 So.
G 3 Thomas Gardner 6-5 212 Fr.
G 23 Rickey Paulding 6-5 218 Sr.
F 5 Travon Bryant 6-9 240 Sr.
C 50 Arthur Johnson 6-9 255 Sr.

Kansas State
G 30 Jarrett Hart 6-4 205 Sr.
G 11 Tim Ellis 6-3 180 Sr.
G 10 Dez Willingham 6-0 180 Fr.
F 23 Marques Hayden 6-7 240 So.
F 21 Dramane Diarra 6-8 225 Jr.


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