December 8, 2007

Cal to offer K-State another challenge

Super freshman Michael Beasley and his Kansas State teammates will continue a stretch of tough non-conference games Sunday when they play host to California. Claiming victories in all six remaining non-conference games has become of paramount for the Wildcats, who have dropped three of their last six contests, and Frank Martin's team would like nothing more than to use this game as a springboard to a winning streak.



"Our strength of schedule is going to be rock-solid strong because of playing these games," Martin said. "You also have to get some wins against some of these non-conference foes, especially at home."



Protecting its home court has become a crucial task for a K-State team that is looking to avoid a return to the NCAA Tournament bubble come season's end. The process of sidestepping such a situation must begin soon, however, as the time for building a strong, non-conference tournament resume is quickly running out.



"This is probably our biggest game of the year so far, and we're definitely treating it as such," said K-State freshman Bill Walker of the Wildcats' game against Cal.



A win over undefeated California, a major-conference opponent that came up just one win short of winning the Pac-10 tournament in 2006, would certainly make a statement, but claiming an all important victory over the Golden Bears will be no easy task.



California (6-0) is averaging more than 82 points per game in 2007, and should present K-State with a multitude of challenges on the defensive end. The Bears possess a pair of prolific scorers in sophomores Patrick Christopher and Ryan Anderson, who are both averaging more than 20 points per game. The duo is especially dangerous from behind the 3-point line, knocking down a combined 19 3-pointers in the season's early going, a statistic that doesn't bode well for the Wildcats, who have had difficulty defending the perimeter jumper in nearly every early season game.



"They've got a couple shooters, so things are going to be tough," Walker said of the Golden Bears. "We're stressing (defending the 3-point shot) at practice though. It's all about defensive rotation. We don't know the defense like the back of our hands yet. That's what's causing that problem."



California (6-0, 0-0 Pac 10)

8 p.m.


Kansas State (5-3, 0-0 Big 12)

FSN













Pregame Notes
Tip: 1 p.m. CST
Where: Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)
Head Coaches: Frank Martin 1st yr (5-3 overall) … Ben Braun 12th yr (208-138 at Califonia, 541-373 31st yr overall)
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson, Play-by-Play; Stan Weber, Color
The network distributes its digital-quality audio stream via satellite to over 31 affiliates across the Sunflower State, including local Manhattan affiliates KMAN (1350 AM) and KMKF (101.5 FM). K-State sports can also be heard on Sirius Satellite Radio. The pregame show takes to the airwaves one hour prior to each tipoff.
TV: FSN
Series: Kansas State leads 5-1





























PROJECTED STARTERS



Kansas State 5-3


Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

0

Jacob Pullen (6-5, 175)

Fr

12.1/1.3

G

2

Blake Young (6-2, 195)

Sr

8.9/3.8

F

30

Michael Beasley (6-10, 235)

Fr

25.8/14.8

F

12

Bill Walker (6-6, 220)

Fr

11.3/6.2

C

40

Ron Anderson (6-8, 260)

Fr

4.9/6.5



Califonia 6-0


Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

13

Jerome Randle (5-10, 165)

So

14.3/2.8

G

23

Nikola Knezevic (6-2, 185)

So

4.8/0.8

G

23

P. Christopher (6-5, 215)

so

20.7/3.5

F

34

Ryan Anderson (6-10, 240)

So

22.5/9.2

C

35

DeVon Harden (6-11, 250)

Sr

10.8/13.0







On the offensive end of the court, K-State will continue to get the ball to Beasley, the nation's leading scorer, but the Wildcats must also continue their search for another consistent scoring option, a role which Walker embraced during the Wildcats' loss to Notre Dame Tuesday, putting 14 points up in 33 minutes of action.



"I'm just now starting to get my legs under me," Walker said.



Walker, who moved from small forward to power forward during K-State's last game, says he will likely remain in his new position for Sunday's game in an effort to help offset California center DeVon Harden, who is averaging double-digit points and rebounds this season.



"I'll probably play there again Sunday," he said. "It just depends. It lets me use my strength a little bit more. I don't get called for as many charges down there."



Even so, K-State must find a weapon from beyond the arc if it hopes to take teams out of zone defenses, which are keyed on taking the inside away from Walker and Beasley. The Wildcats are shooting an abysmal 26 percent from 3-point range in 2007, and have struggled to find a long-distance rhythm in nearly every game.



"Some nights you shoot it well. Some nights you don't," said junior forward Darren Kent, who is 1 for 6 from 3-point range this season. "We have to dribble and create a little more to collapse the defense. We need to find our open shooters. Hopefully, they can knock down the shots on Sunday."



While getting a non-conference victory over a major-conference opponent is priority No. 1 for the Wildcats, early season games such as Sunday's serve what is possibly an even greater importance.



"They have some wings and some depth," Martin said. "This is why we scheduled them two years ago. We felt that they have the kind of team that is going to challenge us and make us better."



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