After struggling to put the ball in the basket against Longwood, Jim Wooldridge decided to shake things up following the game. The result was a new starting lineup featuring Cartier Martin sliding to the 5 and Mario Taybron in at the point. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the shooting results were worse.
The Wildcats opened up the game shooting under 17-percent in the opening eight-and-a-half minutes, and had increase their percentage to just 27-percent by halftime. Nevertheless, the Wildcats trailed by only one at the break, after trailing by as many as ten.
With more shots dropping in the second half, the Wildcats took the lead and threatened to pull away, but the Rams kept it close down the stretch, closing to within two points with nine seconds left to play.
The Wildcats' ability to keep the game close came because of a strong defensive effort, especially on Colorado State sophomore Jason Smith. Smith entered the game averaging over 18 points per game, but a combination of Akeem Wright, Dramane Diarra, and Cartier Martin limited Smith to just six points, all of which came at the free throw line. It marked the first time Smith had ever been held without a field goal in his career.
"We were trying to front their posts and make them make bad lob passes over the top," Martin said. "We figured they wouldn't be able to stay with us because we are smaller and the way we were going to play defense. It worked for us."
Though they struggled from the field, the Cats found their stroke at the free-throw line, hitting 84-percent of their foul shots, including key buckets in the second half keeping the Rams at bay. "We knew that (free throw shooting) was a big reason that we lost at Washington State. We didn't step up to the line and knock down the free ones" David Hoskins said. "All the good teams can hit free throws."
Hoskins led the Wildcats with 24 points, shooting 67-percent from the field. Hoskins seemed to find a home on the low block, perfecting the ability to face up to his defender and drive into the lane. "We were just trying to go to the rim hard and get them into foul trouble," Hoskins said of the low post offense.
Martin put up another solid effort for K-State,
scoring 18 points, including hitting all eight of his
free throw attempts.
After speaking of possible lineup changes after another slow start Monday night against Longwood, coach Jim Wooldridge followed through Wednesday. For the first time this season, the Wildcats started a lineup of Mario Taybron, Lance Harris, Akeem Wright, David Hoskins and Cartier Martin. The Wildcats had used the no-post lineup in the midst of games with success earlier in the season, but had never started a lineup without a big man. It also marked the first regular season stars of Taybron's and Hoskins' Wildcat careers. Both responded well, with Hoskins leading the Wildcats in scoring, and Taybron leading the team in assists.
Akeem Wright played Wednesday night, despite the shooting death of his brother Monday. Wright played 33 minutes, scoring 4 points and pulling down 6 rebounds. "That has to be tough on a guy," Martin said of Wright's difficult situation. "For him to be able to go out there and play as hard as he did, that just shows that he's a good player. Through all the trials and tribulations, he fought through it."
Season for giving-
The free-throw line is often called the charity stripe, and the Wildcats shot like they were wearing Santa hats and ringing a bell in front of Wal-Mart. The Cats made 15 of 16 free throws in the opening half, keeping them in the game, despite shooting 27-percent from the field.
Player of the game-
David Hoskins did his best post imitation, scoring 24 points, many of which came in the paint or at the free throw line after banging down low.
One vote in the box-
The Wildcats received a vote in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll released Monday - the first the Wildcats have received in nearly 14 years. January 2, 1992, was the last time the Wildcats received votes in the poll.
Sophomore Clent Stewart played a career-low 13 minutes against Colorado State. Wooldridge said after the game that his young guard is simply struggling with turning the ball over right now.