Massey Back to Form Just in Time for Holidays

Tuesday night against Northern Illinois, K-State fans, players and coaches received an early Christmas gift- something they'd been missing for the last couple games. That gift came in the form of 32 points from senior forward Jeremiah Massey. With the scoring of Massey back as a key component of the game plan, the Wildcats beat the Huskies 81-66.

"Phenomenal, that's one word," freshman Clent Stewart said when asked to describe Massey's evening.

"I just came out and tried to get a win," Massey said. "I just played hard tonight." Perhaps the truest sign that Massey was back to form came with 10:10 remaining in the first half. Massey received the ball on the low block, put on a post move and hit a jump hook, getting fouled in the process. Massey broke into a smile and slightly pumped his fist as the crowed roared. It was midway through the first half and he had already surpassed his scoring total in the previous contest.

Also contributing a big night for the Wildcats was senior Justin Williams. Williams came in off of the bench and contributed 13 points and led the Wildcats with six rebounds. Williams's baskets included a variety of jumpers from 15 feet and in and shots near the basket.

Williams summed up his role on the team in rather simple words, "Energy, rebounding, and defense. That's it."

Meanwhile, another K-State forward may have landed in the doghouse. Junior Marques Hayden started the game for the Wildcats and had played nearly six minutes before a missed jumper in early in an offensive possession and a defensive lapse caught the dismay of Wooldridge. Hayden was pulled at that point in the game and played just three minutes the rest of the half.

When asked of Hayden's situation, Wooldridge said, "Justin played better, that's just the way it went."

With Williams playing strong, Hayden played just nine minutes in the second half, and even had his warm-up shirt back on with five minutes remaining.

Nevertheless, it was the play of Massey that had the Bramlage faithful buzzing. Massey's 32 were a career high, and a welcome improvement from scoring just seven points in each of the previous two games. Regarding his scoring total, Massey acknowledged the number, but then mentioned, "In junior college I had a couple 40 point games. Actually 42," he said after further questioning, "Like three times."

It seemed that an ankle injury that head coach Jim Wooldridge had mentioned after the Texas-San Antonio game was no longer hindering him. Massey didn't have much to say on the subject, though. When asked after the game whether he was closer to 100 percent, he simply answered, "Yeah, hopefully."

While impressed by Massey's total, Williams found a bone to pick with Massey's game. "We definitely have to have him get more rebounds," Williams joked. "He only had three." One major key for the Wildcats tonight was their ability to increase their halftime lead with consistent play and strong defense down the stretch- something which has evaded them in previous contests. For five minutes in the second half, the Huskies were held scoreless. This stretch included a monstrous block by sophomore Tyler Hughes, to which the Bramlage crowd responded with a resounding Huuuuuuuuuughes drone.

Now at 8-0, the Wildcats continue with their best start since the 97-98 season, a mark this team can tie with a win next Tuesday against Rutgers. With many scoffing at the level of competition the Wildcats have played, the question remains of how good this K-State team truly is. Wooldridge wouldn't commit to giving the team the "good" label just yet, but added "If we continue to get better, then, you know, at some point in time you could say that this is a good basketball team.

It seems that the Rutgers game coming off of Christmas break will provide another test for the ability of this Wildcat team. With Massey looking like an All-Big12 performer again, sophomore Fred Peete proving he can be a go-to guy and different supporting guys stepping up each game, it seems that these Wildcats could continue to make some noise throughout the non-conference schedule and into Big 12 play.

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