November 22, 2008

Wildcats claim first road win of year

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Don't let the name or conference affiliation of Kansas State's latest opponent deceive you. The Wildcats 69-59 win over Cleveland State, the preseason pick to win the Horizon League, wasn't your everyday mid-major manhandling. According to K-State head coach Frank Martin, Saturday's was a solid victory over a solid team.

"(Cleveland State) is a veteran team," Martin said. "They're a team that played for a conference championship. They're a team that's picked to win their league. … It's a quality basketball team. It's a team that wins. It's a team that has experience, and you're playing on their home court. You're either a good team or you're not, and they're a good team. "

K-State's fourth win of the year, however big or insignificant it might turn out to be, saw four Wildcats register double-digit point totals for the fourth straight game, and while Martin's squad out rebounded the Vikings 36-30, it also allowed Cleveland State to grab 14 offensive rebounds.

So nobody should be shocked that according to Martin and his players, a road win over a solid team doesn't earn you the right to be complacent.

"We only out rebounded them by six," said senior Darren Kent, who scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Saturday, recording his second straight double-double. "We would like that number to be higher. They had too many offensive rebounded as well."

The Wildcats, led by junior Denis Clemente's team-high 16 points and forward Jamar Samuels's 15, outscored Cleveland State 23-18 in the last 12:43 of the game, as it took nearly all 40 minutes of the contest for K-State to build an advantage that anyone would describe as comfortable.

No, K-State's most recent win wasn't, by any means, easy, but then again, nobody expected it to be.

"This team, especially in this building, would give a lot of people a lot of problems in our conference," Martin said. "They're tough, they're strong and they're physical."

After building a 12-point halftime advantage, the Wildcats watched their lead shrink to as few as three eight minutes into the second half, but when Cleveland State forward D'Aundray Bullock was whistled for an intentional foul for throwing an elbow at Samuels with 11:30 left to play, things changed.

And for K-State, that change wasn't a moment too soon.

The Cleveland State crowd, which was the loudest it had been the entire night just before the foul was committed, fell silent after Samuels hit the resulting free throws, and by the time Kent drilled a 3-pointer on K-State's next possession, the air had been let out of the arena.

"I feel it was a momentum shift," said sophomore Dominique Sutton. "We needed that. We needed it to open the gap a little bit so we could calm down and get ourselves together. It was a big turnaround."

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