Wildcats dominate Cleveland State

There's nothing like a game against an extremely inferior opponent to boost a team's psyche. The Kansas State men's basketball team was all smiles Tuesday night after blowing out Cleveland State (5-5) 93-60 in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats were coming off consecutive road losses last week to California and Colorado State, and have been struggling on both ends of the floor all season.

Senior forward Cartier Martin led the team with 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He also went 8-of-9 from the free throw line.

K-State (5-3) shut down the Vikings leading scorers for most of the game, and Coach Bob Huggins said he finally got what he has been looking for all season long from his team on the defensive side of the ball, as the Wildcats forced 22 turnovers, with 16 in the first half.

"I thought that was the first time we were assertive for the whole game," he said. "We talked to the guys for two days to try to come out and impose our will on the opposition, which we haven't done at all this season, much less for an entire game. Today, I thought we were assertive. We attacked the basket, threw it close, and ran at the basket instead of fading away. We attacked the basket better."

Sophomore forward J'Nathan Bullock, Cleveland State's leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, was held to just eight points on 1-of-12 shooting from the field. He got most of his points (6) from the free-throw line, and he also grabbed seven rebounds. He was one of three Vikings to score eight points in the game, which were the most points by any of the Cleveland State players.

The Wildcats held their opponent to just 32 percent shooting from the field while they shot 61.5 percent.

Junior forward David Hoskins had one of his best games of the season, scoring 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He and Martin combined to shoot 13-for-15 from the free throw line.

Senior guard Akeem Wright finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and two steals, and senior guard Lance Harris had 10 points, five assists and four rebounds. Freshman center Luis Colon played in his first game since being suspended one game for throwing a punch against California last week. He came off the bench to score nine points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field.

Freshman center Jason Bennett had the best game of his young career, finishing with a career-high 11 points, while grabbing six rebounds and blocking five shots. His blocks all came in the first half of the game, and he fell just one block shy of tying the school record for blocks in a single game. He has already recorded six blocks in a game once this season, a feat he accomplished against California.

The 7-foot-3 center now has 22 blocks eight games into the 2006-07 campaign, and the school record for blocks by a freshman in an entire season is 24 set in 1996 by Shawn Rhodes.

Bennett said he plans on shattering that record, and he also said he wants to get at least seven blocks in a game sometime soon so he can have that record, too.

"I'm trying to beat the most blocks in a game, and now I'm trying to beat the most blocks by a freshman," Bennett said. "My main thing on the court is defense. Back in high school I never really worried about scoring, because I got most of my points off rebounds. I just want to win, and set a couple of records while I'm doing it."

The first half was a productive one for the Wildcats. They dominated on both ends of the court, using run after run to build a 50-23 halftime lead. The 50 points put up by K-State was the highest output in the first half this season and most for a first half since Jan. 10, 2004, against Savannah State when they scored 51. The team was 2-for-3 from the three-point line in the half, which was a bit of a change from last week. K-State had attempted a combined 45 three-point shots in the two road losses last week.

The Wildcats were also 16-for-21 from the free throw line in the opening half. They made a total of 12 free throw shots in the last two games combined.

This was a different team, and they all said after the game that this is the type of team they hope to be for the rest of the season.

"It started on the defensive end," Hoskins said. "Coach said that we weren't playing hard enough, so in the beginning we just wanted to go out and play as hard as we could. We wanted to up the intensity. "That definitely was our best half of basketball right there. I think it all came from the tip. Guys were ready to play from the beginning."

The second half seemed to be played as if both teams knew K-State would win. The Wildcats kept up the intensity, but Cleveland State never really put up any type of a fight. The one area where K-State struggled was on the boards. Cleveland State ended the game with a 45-28 rebound advantage, and Huggins said that is one thing he is going to stress in practice the next few days.

The Wildcats hit the road again at 7 p.m. this Saturday when they travel to Fargo, N.D., to play North Dakota State. The Bison are coming off a 64-60 victory at then No.8-ranked Marquette last Saturday in the championship game of the Pepsi Blue and Gold Classic.

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