SEEING THE GOOD OUT OF THE BAD

MANHATTAN, Kan. - No, Kansas State was not the sharpest this past Wednesday, but it showed a maturity that is constant with championship teams. When not playing the best, the Wildcats found a way to win when for the most part, the Nebraska Cornhuskers out-played them. But the silver lining is that K-State won.

Mutterings and grumblings could be heard leaving Bramlage Coliseum Wednesday night following Kansas State's 91-87 victory … that's victory … over Nebraska.

Sure, a more relaxing victory had been expected, but as coach Frank Martin said afterward, "It's the Big 12. You're not going to line up and win games by 25 points every time out. It's not going to happen."

The fact is, a four-point win counts just as much as a 25-pointer in the standings, and that's what the Wildcats figured out how to secure.

Honestly, the view here is that it was a night that the Wildcats positioned another brick in that foundation of being a championship team. It was a game against a last place Nebraska team that K-State, at least subconsciously, looked past.

As Dominique Sutton said, "You try not to look at a team's record and decide how good, or bad, they are, but you do. It was a game where there wasn't a lot of hype. With Kansas and Texas, there's a big hype. You can feel it from the fans. We like it when we're perceived to be the underdog. It makes us play harder. Tonight it was hard to get up to play, but that's on us."

Yes, K-State has been tinkering on the edge in recent games trailing Iowa State by four at the half, leading Colorado by only a bucket at intermission, and down by one to the Cornhuskers at the break, but in each game the Wildcats have shown the moxie to find a way to win down the stretch.

Wednesday, the defense was "bad" according to Martin. The ‘Cats had a lack of "try" to their game, according to the coach.

But the fact is, with Nebraska in position to tie the game, or even win it with a trey on its final possession, Jacob Pullen came up with a steal to secure the win.

On a night when the "bigs" didn't play well, it was Sutton who stepped up with the game of his Wildcat career.

On a night when Denis Clemente was miserable from the field (2-of-11 at one point), he also stepped up with consecutive treys in the final minutes and figured out how to come up with 21 points.

On a night when most reserves summoned from the bench were lackluster in their effort, 7-footer Jordan Henriquez-Roberts played tall. For a team that lacks focus at the free throw line (65 percent for the year), they were dialed in on this night hitting 80 percent (32-of-40), which included the last 14 in a row.

For a player like Chris Merriewether … scoreless in his last six games and without a free throw attempt since January 16 … he rose to the occasion with two freebies with 24 seconds left for the game-winning points.

Pullen said after the game, "To be good, everybody has to put in. Chris made a big play, and we needed it."

It was a night when, as Martin said, K-State played without "focus and discipline," and on a night where the coach questioned how hard some of his ‘Cats "tried," the fact is, Kansas State finagled a victory out of a mediocre effort.

Teams that win championships have unsung heroes step up in different games; title teams figure out how to win games when they've been out-played. K-State demonstrated both Wednesday night.

When is the last time that a Wildcat team allowed the other guy to shoot 58 percent from the field and make 14 3-pointers, yet walk out with a victory?

The view here is that it was another example of how the Wildcats are continuing to mature and are closing in on being a championship-type team.


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