The up-tempo, aggressive play was too much for the Eagles to handle in the first half, with the Wildcats holding a 43-21 lead at the break. Displaying a new knack for operating in transition, the Wildcats had scored half of their 28 points off fast breaks with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Junior Cartier Martin led the Wildcats in three major categories, scoring a career-high 23 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing six assists. "We would like to get him more shots," coach Jim Wooldridge said of Martin.
K-State opened the game volleying leads back and forth with Georgia Southern, holding an 11-7 lead just seven minutes into the game. That's when the Cats' up-tempo game took over. Forcing fast breaks off turnovers and in breaking presses, the Wildcats went on a 29-10 run over the next seven minutes.
"I think we were moving the ball and playing together," junior Akeem Wright said of the first half run. "(We were) just beating their press, (and) getting easy lay-ups. Just running down the court and getting easy transition buckets."
Wright scored nine points and pulled in seven rebounds in his Wildcat debut. His efforts on the offensive end were considerable, but Wooldridge was more impressed by the work Wright put in defending Eagles guard Elton Nesbitt, who entered the night averaging over 18 points per game. Wright held Nesbitt to 16 points on 24-percent shooting. "I thought he was terrific defensively," Wooldridge said of Wright.
Wright led a Wildcat defense that held the Eagles to 26-percent shooting on the night. "I thought our perimeter defenders did a great job on their guards by getting back down the floor, getting through screens and staying committed on their primary scorers," Wooldridge said.
The second half would prove more difficult for the
Wildcats, as turnovers caused a few problems on the
offensive end. K-State turned the ball over ten times
in the second half. "I would say that we got relaxed a
little bit," sophomore Clent Stewart said of the
second-half letdown. "We had the big lead and guys
were kind of tentative on the offensive side, but I
think we'll be fine."
Player of the game
If Cartier Martin can be nearly as productive as he
was tonight on a consistent basis this season, K-State
has their next All-Big 12 candidate. In his 23 point,
11 rebound, six assist effort, he showed a couple
traits he has not really displayed the past two
seasons - an aggressiveness in attacking the basket,
and a strong, physical nature in going after rebounds.
"That's one of the things I work on," Martin said,
"getting to the basket and getting shots."
Player of the game (honorable mention)
Clent Stewart also showed aggressiveness in scoring
that he has not previously showcased. Stewart finished
second on the team in scoring and assists, with 14 and
five, respectively. A number of his points came on
drives to the basket and pull-up jump shots.
Wooldridge said he thought Stewart played the best
game of his Wildcat career. "He's a smart guy and
knows what he has to do to improve as a player,"
Wooldridge said. "I think that experience is what
speaks to his improvement."
Play of the game
About halfway through the first half, junior Lance Harris came up with a steal and finished off the play
with a dunk on the other end. Harris had a defender
right on his hip, but took the ball up with one hand,
and then flushed it with two, Scottie Pippen-style.
Change in starting lineup
The season opener saw a different starting five than
the two exhibition games. Junior Akeem Wright started
for sophomore David Hoskins. Hoskins injured his knee
earlier in the week, when colliding with another
player in practice. Hoskins' knee had healed well
enough to play, and he saw time coming off the bench.
The three-headed monster that is the Wildcats rotation
down low had a bit of a different look Friday night.
Junior Serge Afeli led the three posts in minutes
played with 16. Tyler Hughes played 12 minutes off the
bench, and starter Dramane Diarra played just eight
minutes. Diarra was pulled out of the game in the
second half after a failed attempt to convert a 2-on-1
break on his own.
Speaking of Serge
The new fan favorite earned a new chant from the
student section. Afeli, who pulled down seven
rebounds, was serenaded by "Serge, Serge, Serge"
chants when exiting the game at one point in the
Curtis Allen did not see any action in the contest.
Wooldridge said he was not injured, but didn't see any
time because of how well the rest of the guards were
playing. When asked why Allen did not even see the
court in garbage-time, Wooldridge said he did not
think Allen would appreciate playing the waning
seconds of the game.
From one PG to three?
A year ago, Clent Stewart had the role of primary ball
handler pretty much forced upon him. Friday night,
Stewart received many breaks from handling the ball,
as Mario Taybron and Akeem Wright both handled the
ball. On occasions where all three were in the game
the Wildcats seemed to have the perfect press break.
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