Even Bob Huggins has to be a little happy with his team nowadays.
The coach of the Kansas State men's basketball team watched the Wildcats lose its first two Big 12 Conference games earlier this month, but the team is becoming a more consistent bunch and is now riding a four-game winning streak.
K-State (14-6 overall, 3-2 Big 12) had its last out-of-conference game Monday night against Chicago State, and the Wildcats easily defeated the Cougars 73-36 in Bramlage Coliseum.
The point total of Chicago State was less than half its season average of 72.2 points per game. Senior Cartier Martin is now coming off the bench, but has filled his new role nicely. He led the way for K-State with 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting. He also had five rebounds in 25 minutes.
"It was fun. I did what I had to do to put the ball into the hole," Martin said. "My teammates were finding me on the baseline, and I got off some good shots.
"Today was all about us getting better as a team, and I feel like we did that." Junior David Hoskins recorded his second-career and second-straight double-double. He finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Seniors Lance Harris and Akeem Wright both added 12 points for K-State.
"I think they gave me a couple of Cartier's rebounds, but hey, I'll take them," Hoskins said, jokingly, after being asked about his recent rebounding efforts. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds Jan. 20 in a 69-60 win at Iowa State. "I don't what's been different lately, the ball is just falling into my hands. I seem to be getting into the right place at the right time."
Six players for Chicago State came into the game averaging at least 10 points, but junior John Cantrell was the only Cougar to score in double figures against K-State finishing with 14.
Junior David Holston and senior Royce Parran came into the game leading the team in scoring with a combined average of 30 points per game. Holston was also coming off a 34-point effort in an 82-72 win over Western Illinois and the two players had hit a combined 115 three-point shots in 23 games this season.
This game was a different story.
The players were continually fighting through screens trying to find open looks, but they were unable to create their own shots. This was probably because they are 5-foot-9 inches and 5-foot-8 inches, respectively, and that's why they had to go through so many screens to try and get open looks against the taller Wildcat defenders.. K-State had to work hard to keep these two under control, constantly switching guarding responsibilities between Wright, senior Jermaine Maybank, and juniors Clent Stewart and Blake Young.
These four had the tough task of running with Parran and Holston all game long to try and stop them from getting open looks from behind the arc, because Huggins ran a man defense the whole game.
Not only did the Wildcats not allow these two to get into a rhythm, they hardly allowed them any type of a quality look at the basket. The four Wildcat guards won the battle for most of the game, as they held the duo from Chicago State to just 3-of-19 from the field and just 1-12 from behind the arc.
This matchup for K-State showed they have the defenders to stay with and contain quick, elusive guards. This will be a huge factor as most of the teams in the Big 12 have a guard or two that can run up and down the court with any team.
Chicago State only shot 22 percent from the field, and was outrebounded 44-34 by K-State.
"This is a totally different team out there than when we were banging into each other against William & Mary (in the first game of the season)," Huggins said. "I think we are playing a lot harder recently, and the players are becoming more trusting of each other out there on the court."
Huggins also went on to compliment center Jason Bennett, who blocked a shot by senior Aaron Williams at the 5:46 mark in the second half to give him seven blocked shots for the game, which set a new single-game school record. He finished with eight for the game after getting one last rejection.
With 1:23 to play, he recorded the school and Bramlage Coliseum record eighth block and then gave a wag of his finger to the student section, a move most notably used by the Houston Rockets' Dikembe Mutombo.
"I saw him do that in a game the other day, and I decided that I gotta start doing that," Bennett said. He also scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in the contest. "My confidence was a little down lately, but now it has shot up so much, and I can't wait to play Nebraska. Now that I have the record, I'm going to go out every game and try to break it as often as I can."