'Cats Validated As A Power

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State has faced three ranked teams this season, and, defeated three ranked teams, which includes No. 1 Texas this past Monday. The Wildcats are demonstrating all the pieces needed to go deep into the NCAA's March Madness with a fancy ranking of No. 10/9.

I'm not sure that a team ranked in the Top 10 in the county needs a "validation game," but if so, Kansas State's handling of No. 1 Texas did just that Monday night.

It was a third game this season against a ranked team, and it was a third victory. Not since 1988 has a K-State team come out the victor three times against a Top 25 foe in a single season.

Not only is it currently a K-State team ranked as high as No. 9 in the nation by the college coaches, but Monday the Wildcats gave proof that they are in a most elite roll call of teams that has the capabilities of going multiple, multiple rounds into March Madness.

Even Texas coach Rick Barnes said after the game, "I have said all year long that Kansas State is a Top 10 team. I love the way they play. They play hard and come after you. They're not going to make it easy for you."

Texas didn't make it easy on K-State, either. Twice in the second half, the Longhorns stampeded the Wildcats, only to be corralled on each rush.

In Pullen's opinion, it was a case of "… staying poised," and "staying the course."

While Frank Martin wants a that works "inside-out," it's also true that for Kansas State to have a chance at victory against a ranked team, it has normally taken 32 to 40 points from the Pullen-Denis Clemente guard tandem.

With the UT approach being to take away K-State's sharp-shooters, as Pullen said, "We didn't play well, and last year we wouldn't have won without us playing well. That shows how mature this team has become, and how mature Frank is in having faith to play 10 or 11 guys." "Our bigs played with unbelievable energy and passion in a big-boy game today," Martin said of the key to this victory.

He then explained, "The one thing we evaluated after the first season was if we were going to compete with the big boys … that's Texas and Kansas in this league … we better have depth on the front line because those teams have a plethora of big, strong guys. That's what we've tried to address in our recruiting."

See Luis Colon, see Curtis Kelly, see Jamar Samuels, see Wally Judge, and see Jordan Henriquez-Roberts. And, see the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the Big 12, which Monday resulted in a 23-10 margin in second-chance points in a nine-point win.

In the paint, K-State won, 46-42; fast-break points, K-State won, 16-12; points off the bench, K-State won, 31-21.

Again, the big boys played big. The Wildcats won with 38 percent shooting overall and 8 percent from 3-point range, but by holding the Texans to 37 percent and 27 percent. K-State won because it matched each effort-play

Texas made, plus had a few more of their own. K-State won with reserves like Rodney McGruder giving 100 percent; K-State won with 6-1, 209-pound Martavious Irving twice snatching the ball away from the biggest Texan of all … 6-10, 290-pound Dexter Pittman.

K-State won by scoring just 71 points, or 11 under its season average, but by holding UT to 62 points, or 26 lower than its season norm.

Kansas State won on "Big Monday" by playing the way Martin coaches: with passion, with tenacity, with toughness … with a chip on their shoulder.

Afterward, the Wildcats were as classy off the floor as they were efficient on the floor. Martin gave no love to Dominique Sutton for a late-game technical; he saluted the "unity" of the program starting with his assistants; and once again, he gave a standing ovation to the sellout madness of Bramlage Coliseum.

Jamar Samuels remembered his mother, who was coming out of surgery, and recognized the death of Luis Colon's cousin in a shooting incident back in Puerto Rico.

And the K-State fans demonstrated similar class by fanatically cheering their team to victory, without putting on a needless show for ESPN by storming the court.

And it was Martin who brought back to life the Bob Huggins quote borrowed from John F. Kennedy: "Why settle for second, when first is available."

Martin stops short of saying that this K-State team is better than any opponent, but he does say, "That's how we prepare; that's what we shoot for."

That's to be the best.

That's a constant whether after a loss to Missouri two weeks ago, and will be the same following this win over No. 1 Texas.

"Two years ago, Jake was the first one running up the stairs high-fiving everyone, and then he showed up the next day and didn't want to practice," Martin said in reference to defeating No. 2 Kansas two years ago, which was followed by a loss at Missouri. "He understands it now. It's not about celebrating this win. It's about being proud, but continuing to grow as a basketball team."

Martin said if the team doesn't show up to practice on Wednesday ready to work, "I'm going to destroy them."

Martin called the Texas victory "a great win," but added, "If we're not ready to go get the next team on our schedule, which is Okie State on Saturday, we're going to be in trouble and it will take all the luster off this win, and the one last weekend at Colorado."

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