"The base of your team has got to be, 'Can you guard the paint? Can you get back down the floor? Can you do these blue collar things that give you a chance to win night in and night out?'" These were the words of
K-State Jim Wooldridge following a 74-54 Wildcat victory in which the team took care of many of the aforementioned "blue collar" keys.
"We have to (play blue collar basketball)," Wooldridge said. "If we buy into that and complete those kind of plays, we'll have a better chance to be successful."
The Wildcats blue collar work consisted of defense and hustle plays the likes of which had not been seen in Bramlage this year. The result? A crowd of 11,867 Wildcat fans being sent home happy from a 74-54 victory.
"I was real proud of the effort tonight," said Wooldridge. "We were on the floor for loose balls, we took several charges. I think we had a good, sturdy look about us defensively."
Coming off of a loss where their shooting could hardly be topped, K-State realized that simply scoring would not win basketball games in the Big 12. A players-only meeting was held the day following the three point loss to Texas Tech, and the decision on the game plan for the Missouri game was set.
"(The theme of the meeting was) basically take no prisoners," said Fred Peete, "come out and get this win."
This attitude of play was readily apparent from the start, as the Wildcat defense hustled and caused havoc against a seemingly-flustered Missouri offense. At the ten-minute mark of the first half, the Wildcats had allowed just six Tiger points, while causing seven turnovers and taking two charges.
"The defensive effort got us off to a great start," said Wooldridge.
The Wildcats maintained this effort throughout most of the game, and were able to show Wildcat fans that they could gain a big lead and maintain it. "It feels pretty good to have a big lead and keep it," said Fred Peete. Linas Kleiza, Missouri's top scorer seemed especially rattled by the engulfing K-State defense. Kleiza scored 14, nearly two points below his season average, and shot a dismal 31 percent from the field. K-State was led by stellar efforts by Cartier Martin and Jeremiah Massey.
Martin led the Wildcats in both points and rebounding on the evening, registering his first double-double of the season, with 21 and ten, respectively.
"I had ten (rebounds)? Oh, a double-double, all right," said Martin, clearly enjoying his stats accompanying the victory.
Massey scored 17 points and seemed to be the team's leader in hustling, taking three charges and hitting the floor multiple times in loose ball situations.
"Jeremiah taking those charges was a big part of the game," said Martin of Massey's blue collar effort. "They got the crowd going, and they got the momentum going for us."
The Wildcats now have a week off, before taking on Texas A&M at College Station. The game will be another key contest for the Wildcats, but holds a special meaning for Martin, a native Texan.
"I'm looking forward to going home," Martin said. "That will be a big game for me."
The Wildcats effort against Missouri could be viewed by many as a season changing game. After two contests where it seemed they were finding ways to lose, the all-out effort against the Tigers showed a near sell-out crowd and TV audience that they could put together a solid 40-minute effort and make some noise in the Big 12.
With the current health condition of
the team, which was referred to as a M.A.S.H. unit
following the Texas Tech game, it seems the week off
could not come at a better time. Schyler Thomas is
expected to return after missing the Missouri game
with a sprained ankle. Jeremiah Massey's effort
against the Tigers seems to be the only testimony
needed to speak on his ankle's condition. A week off
should see the Wildcats healthier and more confident
heading down to College Station.
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