January 8, 2008

K-State's defense stifles hapless Tigers

Moments after he saw Kansas State's defense help Savannah State to set a pair of NCAA futility marks and tie another in a historic 82-25 pasting of the Tigers on Monday night, Frank Martin looked toward his first league season as a Big 12 coach, and the first for at least six of his players. But not before he first inspected the havoc wreaked by the Wildcats in their final non-conference game.



Never before has a single digit on a stat sheet been so impossible to ignore.



Four. As in the total points Savannah State scored in the second half.



"I've never been a part of (something like) it," Martin said.



Coming off a 103-77 blasting at the hands of Xavier in Cincinnati, the Wildcats regrouped with an 86-point turnaround. They outscored Savannah State in the second half like no other team from a BCS conference has against an opponent in any half this season (48-4), as the Tigers managed NCAA lows since the introduction of the shot clock in 1986 in field goal percentage (4.3 percent on 1-for-23 shooting), points in a half (four) and made just one field goal to share a NCAA futility mark with Pennsylvania, which went 1-for-17 in the first half against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 29.



How rare is it to manage only single digits in a half? Only Mississippi Valley State (nine), North Carolina Central (eight) and Pennsylvania (six) had done so prior to Monday, when a crowd of 5,476 (there were 12,380 tickets actually sold) saw the Wildcats erupt on a 35-1 scoring run to take a 72-22 lead before Savannah State made its lone bucket on a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 48 seconds remaining.



Overall, the Wildcats' 60-point victory was the fifth-most lopsided decision by a BCS school this season (Tennessee won by 69 points, West Virginia 66, Duke 65, and South Carolina 61) and ranks second in school history behind a 61-point victory against Delaware State on Dec. 7, 1991.



K-State set Bramlage Coliseum and Big 12 records for fewest points allowed in a game and in a half, eclipsing the 26 total points Nebraska allowed Bethune-Cookman in 2003 and the 10 points Northern Arizona mustered in the first half against Kansas on Nov. 21.



Whew.



Unfortunately for third-year Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax, 21-58, he has suffered larger or equally gruesome defeats in losing at Colorado (116-52) and at Oregon (83-23) in his first season.



Asked whether he believed K-State "could get anything" out of putting up such a dominant display, Broadnax replied, "They get a W. A win is a win in the stock market. They got their (rears) beat by Xavier. Which one do you think (Martin) prefers?



"If I was in the stock market, I probably would have cut my loss a little quicker and been done in the first half. I would have been out of that investment. Unfortunately, I had to ride the tide. A win is a win and they need a win going into the Big 12. It's going to be tough for them. You know what they have to go up against - Texas and Oklahoma and going on the road. The Big 12 is not a cake walk. I'd take a win."



The Wildcats improved to 10-4, finishing with the same mark in non-conference as a year ago, while Savannah State, which upset Mississippi State 61-56 at home last Friday, fell to 8-13.



To the critics that assert the Wildcats' lopsided dominance across the board Monday skews their exact status, Martin insisted, "It'll probably balance out after we let Xavier shoot 84 percent against us the other night."



Xavier handed K-State its worst defeat of the season and set opponent highs in nine categories, including points (103), field goals (32), field goal percentage (53.3), 3-point field goals (nine), 3-point field goal percentage (52.9), free throws (30), free throws attempted (39), points in a half (59) and field goal percentage in a half (60.7).



K-State ends its non-conference season with a sizable gap in scoring defense from this time last season. The Wildcats entered Savannah State last in the Big 12 in scoring defense (70.2) in giving up nearly five more points per contest than they did this time a year ago. That figure dropped to an even 67 percent after Monday, which still ranks last in the league by a narrow margin.














Kansas State defensive stats




2006-07 Nonconf

2006-07 Total

2007-08 (14 games)

2-pt FG %

45.0

47.4

40.5

3-pt FG %

29.7 (73-245)

30.2 (178-589)

35.0 (90-257)

Points

65.5

65.1

67.0

Turnovers

17.2

15.2

18.7










Martin said he wasn't concerned about opponents' scoring, though, given "we shoot about 100 baskets a game," and instead looks solely at field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounds, two departments that have become strengths for the Wildcats. K-State is allowing just 38,8 percent shooting from the floor, which ranks sixth in the Big 12, and leads the league in rebounding (45.1) and its plus-10.2 rebounding margin is only behind Texas A&M at plus-11.7.



K-State's field goal percentage defense is better than where it finished last season (40.2) and the Wildcats average 10 more rebounds a game this season.



"Those are the two numbers I care about and I'm happy right now with so many young kids that are being asked to defend at a high level probably for the first time in their lives," Martin said. "I'm pleased."



Opponents have drained 35.0 percent of their attempts from behind the arc, making 17 more than they had as the Wildcats entered the Big 12 last season. Martin didn't seem too worried about that number, though.



"We were just a little longer on the perimeter last year," he said. "Clent Stewart was still Clent Stewart, but Lance Harris was 6-foot-4 and Akeem Wright was 6-6 with long arms. Blake Young is a little smaller and Andre Gilbert is still learning and Fred Brown is coming off the bench and he's still learning. I don't think we're giving up an alarming number from the perimeter."



It would be a bigger concern if not for help from an offense that ranks third in the Big 12 (81.2 points per game) and is far more potent than the one that put up 70.5 points last season. So far, K-State has reached 75 points 12 times (it did so 10 times during all of 2006-07), which is the most by any team since the 1997-98 squad hit the mark 14 times that season. It is currently on a six-game streak of reaching 75 points - something no K-State team has accomplished in 31 years.



That is due in part to Michael Beasley, who ranks fifth nationally in scoring (24.2) and leads the nation in rebounding (13.2), and Bill Walker, who since switching to power forward has averaged 20.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. But unless K-State proves to be more accurate from the outside (a league-worst 28.8-percent on 3-pointers), the frontcourt will garner little respect while big bodies pack the paint.



"Coaches told me how physical the Big 12 is and I knew that coming in," said Beasley, who against Savannah State dropped in a game-high 25 points and added 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double. "They told me it's a whole different level than what we've been playing in. The road games, it's going to be crazy."



But Beasley believes the win Monday night was important.



"It's good to go into conference with a big win like this," he said. "It's a confidence builder, just going on a good note."



And Martin shows no hesitation in sending Beasley and his Wildcats on their way to face Oklahoma at Norman on Saturday.



"Our guys practice well," he said. "They do what we ask them to do."



Right now, all Martin wants is consistency the rest of the way.



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