Merriewether The Story..On and Off The Floor

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State stumbled out of the Big 12 starting gate Saturday in Columbia, Mo., by losing to the Tigers, 74-68. In the end, the hotly contested game got the best of both the Wildcat players who faded in the closing minutes, but also coach Frank Martin, who "flicked … whacked" Chris Merriewether in the huddle following a costly turnovers.

Kansas State made news Saturday. It lost a basketball game.

On a 10-game winning streak and sporting a 13-1 record and No. 10 national ranking, it was news that the Wildcats lost to the Missouri Tigers, 74-68, in the 2010 Big 12 opener in Columbia.

Coach Frank Martin bristled a touch when asked how damaging the early-year loss could be.

"What happened to Kansas when they came in here and got beat (last season)?" Martin asked. "Did Bill Self go home and quit? No, he went out and won the next game on his schedule, and then won the Big 12."

The Wildcat coach went on to say, "This is life in the Big 12. As hard as this league is, if you thought we were going to run the table, you're not going to the same arenas I do."

There were multiple reasons and whys K-State lost this one in an arena where the Tigers have now won 30 consecutive games.

• K-State turned it over 21 times

• K-State shot just 42 percent

• K-State was out-boarded 35-30

• K-State's "bigs" (Kelly, Colon, Henriquez-Roberts, Judge and Samuels) combined for just 15 points and 10 rebounds

"It's hard to win when your third-best offensive player is Chris Merriewether," Martin said of his reserve that scored a career-high of eight points.

"Chris is a heck of a kid. He's a kid who came to us as a walk-on and has earned his scholarship. As you can see he belongs on the floor. But when he's your third-best offensive player in a basketball game, you're going to have some issues."

Jacob Pullen led the Wildcats with 21 points, while Denis Clemente had 16, but on only 4-of-14 and 6-of-16 shooting, respectively.

"For us to be in that situation and not really react well to it is kinda surprising," said Pullen of losing a late-game six-point lead and turning the ball over 21 times.

"Because we do this every day in practice you would think with us having a lot of upperclassmen they would understand the situation and be ready to play."

K-State's unsung hero of the game ended p being the story of the game, on and off the court.

Merriewether, who had scored seven total points with just one field goal all season, made both of his field goal attempts, plus four more from the foul stripe for a career-high of eight points.

While also contributing a rebound, two steals and two assists in his 20 minutes of play, Merriewether was also "flicked" by Martin in a huddle after a costly turnover in the closing 80 seconds.

Before accepting questions from the media after the game, Martin said, "I want to apologize. I flicked … I kind of whacked Chris Merriewether in his side after that one turnover. I'm old-school, but I also understand the times are real sensitive right now. I love him and it's wrong on my part. I was completely out of line."

Merriewether, who was startled enough to pull back from the "whack," said, "It's not a big deal at all. I trust Frank, Frank trusts me. He'd had my back since day one. I'll always have his back."

The incident, however, was immediately addressed upon the team's return to Manhattan by athletics director John Currie, who offered a statement through the sports information office: "Coach Martin clearly understands his contact with Chris at the end of the game was unacceptable. I am proud of Coach Martin for immediately apologizing and I expect that there will be no further such incidents."

And, Martin hopes he won't see any more incidents of such sporadic play in pivotal times as the season moves forward.

"These games determine who you are," Martin said. "Playing in (road) arenas in Big 12 play, these are the games that harden you. We hadn't been in a situation like this all year (trailing on the road in the final minute), and obviously we didn't handle those final minutes the way we should. We've got to learn from this and handle it better the next time."

The next time for K-State comes Tuesday in a 6 p.m. tipoff against Texas A&M in Bramlage Coliseum.

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