Frank Martin has no complaints when his team scores by "3s" as it did 14 times against UNLV in a 95-80 victory last Saturday, but he also knows that scoring one point at a time is Kansas State's path to success.
"Going to the free throw line is a big part of what we're trying to do," said the coach of the 9-1 Wildcats. "In each game we want to pressure the rim and play inside-out whether that's with post-ups, cuts, dribble-drives … we have to pressure the rim, which puts fouls on your opponents, and that puts you at the foul line."
K-State has shot more free throws than its opponents in eight of its 10 games, which includes attempting at least 28 free throws in eight games and making at least 20 one-pointers in seven of the 10 games.
"All of our perimeter guys are a year older and a year better, plus they have a better understanding of how we need to win games," Martin said. "Then, we have a group of guys like (Curtis) Kelly, who have an understanding of the game and body strength to have success. Now with Luis (Colon) back, he will give us another presence at the rim and a veteran guy with experience.
"Jamar (Samuels) is also more prepared to succeed, and the two big freshmen (Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Wally Judge) are continuing to get better and continuing to earn the trust of their teammates," said Martin. Kansas State has gone to the charity stripe more often than any other Big 12 team, and by a wide margin.
Jacob Pullen leads all Wildcat free throwers in attempts (76), makes (61) and percentage (.803). Denis Clemente (32-45, .711), Curtis Kelly (33-48, .688) and Rodney McGruder (9-13, .692) also lead the way at the foul line.
"The guys getting to the foul line are the ones who understand the game and understand how to do the things that put you in position to shoot free throws," said Martin.
Now, if the rest of the team can just demonstrate the ability to swish those freebies. As a team, K-State's percentage of makes at the line -- .641 – ranks just 10th in the league: Dominique Sutton (15-27, .556), Jamar Samuels (35-64, .547), Wally Judge (12-25, .480) and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts (7-16, .438), and the remaining five players (12-23).
"You're either a good shooter or a bad shooter, and bad shooters are never going to make free throws consistently," Martin said. "Good shooters need to make sure to focus on the next free throw. So much of it is mental."
Of his own team, Martin said, "Jacob has been consistently good, and Denis over the last few games is shooting free throws well. Jamar gets to the line, but is a little up and down, which is just a matter of a young kid trying to learn how to focus on the next free throw and not getting wrapped up with the previous one if it's a miss.
"Curtis is playing with a broken finger on his shooting hand, but is in a groove now after playing with a little anxiety early since he had been off the floor for so long, but he had a beautiful stroke at the line," Martin said.
"Dominique is getting to the line, which tells me he's being more aggressive with his game. We just have to continue getting guys in game situations during our practices to better prepare them for what they have to do in games."