Missouri rode the game-breaking athleticism of Rickey Paulding to turn its visit to Manhattan around last season. Paulding's thunderous dunk over Frank Richards simultaneously wowed and infuriated the Kansas State crowd, fired up the Tigers and pushed them to a relatively comfortable 10-point win.
But Paulding is gone, chasing the NBA dream in Israel. The Tigers could have used his game-changing ability Saturday night. With Missouri dreadful from the field and passive defensively, Kansas State took advantage and earned a dominant 74-54 win at Bramlage Coliseum.
There was a run, to be sure. Kansas State led by as many as 20 points midway through the second half, but a quick 8-0 Missouri run that involved some sloppy passing by the Wildcats brought the Tigers within 10 at 56-46.
From there, Missouri couldn't make the plays necessary to reduce its deficit to single digits. Lackadaisical Missouri defense, a problem all night, gave Kansas State the most important basket of the game just after the four-minute mark.
With a sideline inbounds play in front of the Wildcat bench and Kansas State up 61-52, Cartier Martin found an opening under the basket and behind the Tiger defense. Martin converted the alley-oop pass with a layup and went to the free-throw line to try to convert the three-point play.
He didn't, but he effectively ended Missouri's night. The Tigers looked deflated the rest of the way, allowing Kansas State to score the next 11 points (nine of which came from the free-throw line) and secure its first win against Missouri since 2001.
The outcome dropped the Tigers to 1-2 in Big 12 play and 9-7 overall and improved Kansas State to 1-2 and 11-3. Sophomore forward Linas Kleiza had a quiet night but still managed to lead Missouri with 14 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 2:11 left. Senior swingman Jason Conley and junior forward Kevin Young chipped in 10 points apiece.
The Tigers had no answer for Martin and Jeremiah Massey, who combined for 35 points. Massey also frustrated Kleiza on the defensive end, drawing several offensive fouls and firing up the Bramlage crowd along the way. Martin added 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Missouri only managed to sneak back into the game briefly when they found a small amount of success from the perimeter. The Tigers were brutal from outside the line all evening, finishing 5-of-27, or 19 percent. Even more frustrating for the Tigers is that most of the shots were good looks; very few of them were forced. But nobody showed consistency from the perimeter, that is, except the Wildcats. Kansas State was adequate from the outside, finishing 5-of-14 from the perimeter, or 36 percent.
Kansas State dominated play in the first half, getting to nearly every rebound and generally outhustling the Tigers in every respect. With their perimeter shot falling early, the Wildcats scored 10 of the game's first 12 points, including 3-pointers from Martin and Fred Peete.
Conversely, Missouri was sloppy early, committing five turnovers in its first seven possessions. The Wildcats took advantage of Missouri's loose interior defense on an 11-0 run that extended their lead to 21-6. Reserve big Tyler Hughes had two baskets in the rally, while Massey scored its final five points.
The Tigers managed to right the ship from there, hanging with the Wildcats for the rest of the half. Missouri scored seven of the half's final eight points to cut Kansas State's lead to 33-22 lead at the break. Despite missing a dunk -- and, at the same time, drawing a charge -- early in the half, Young led the Tigers with eight points at the break.
Mike's musings: This is exactly what the Tigers did not need, a massive step back before returning home for two winnable Big 12 games this week. Kansas State outplayed the Tigers in every facet of the game and seemed to want the win much more, a curious result for a Missouri club that had been playing well the past few weeks. … It might be overstating things to say Missouri gave away Saturday night everything it learned by playing well against Oklahoma State on Tuesday, but it's close. I can't imagine practice will be too enjoyable for the Tigers the next few days, but they've earned everything coming to them.
It's hard to pick many positives out of this game, but I think I've found one. Freshman forward Kalen Grimes had a nice run midway through the second half, scoring five straight Missouri points. Those were his only five of the night -- and he missed two free throws in the same stretch -- but his offensive game is developing nicely. Mix in Young's 10 points and it was a solid night for the 5s. Prediction review: I suppose I shouldn't be shocked with this outcome, given the inconsistency of the Tigers the past few seasons. This game reminds me of last year's visit to Nebraska in early February, when the Cornhuskers controlled play on their way to a 78-62 win. Missouri regrouped and went on a decent run after that game, and the schedule breaks down nicely for it to do that again this season. We'll see how the Tigers react Wednesday, when the roller coaster ride resumes anew.