November 28, 2007

Oregon to offer Wildcats stern test

Freshman Michael Beasley and the Kansas State basketball team were welcomed back to Manhattan from Orlando this week by nippy weather. A drop in temperature, though, won't equal a decrease in the level of competition, as the 25th-ranked Wildcats must now get set for an important non-conference showdown with the No. 17 Oregon Ducks, who fell just eight points short of reaching the Final Four last season.

"This is a good test for us," said K-State senior guard Clent Stewart of his team's matchup with Oregon. "If we want to get to where we're trying to go this year, this is a team we have to go out and beat."

K-State head coach Frank Martin has been pleased with his team's development on the defensive end of the court during the early season, and the Wildcats' newfound swagger on defense will certainly be tested Thursday, as Oregon (5-1) is averaging more than 93 points per game.

Malik Hairston, who is scoring 20 points nearly every time he steps out on the court this year, leads the Ducks' offensive onslaught and is complimented nicely by the remainder of the team's starters, who are all averaging double-digit point totals in 2007.

Sophomore point guard Tujan Porter makes Oregon's offense sizzle. The shortest player in the entire Pac-10 Conference, Porter plays much bigger than his 5-foot-6 frame, setting a school record for 3-pointers a year ago with 110. The Detroit native is considered to be one of the nation's elite guards, and the Wildcats will need to focus their efforts on slowing him down in order to be successful.

Yes, defense will be paramount if K-State hopes to topple the Ducks and stay unbeaten at home.

"I can't think of too many teams better than them offensively," Martin said of Thursday's opponent. "They're as good as it gets on offense."

Oregon is shooting 52 percent from the floor this season, including 43 percent from beyond the 3-point line. A sharp contrast to the 26 percent K-State has shot from behind the arc. Making things worse is the fact that the Wildcats (5-1) have struggled to defend the three-point shot in the season's early going, falling victim to a hot-shooting George Mason team just a week ago, allowing the Patriots to go 8 for 17 from long range in a K-State loss.

"We better be ready for the challenge, because those guys can put up a big number on you in a hurry," Martin said of the Ducks' explosiveness offense.

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