January 3, 2009

Defense, 3-pointers help Cats cruise

The bad news for the Kansas State Wildcats in their 83-57 victory over the Idaho State Bengals on Saturday was it took them 8:29 to hit their first field goal from inside the 3-point line. The good news was the Wildcats had already connected on five 3-point shots by then and were playing some of their typical stifling defense.

And they did it with starting point guard Denis Clemente sidelined with the flu.

Jacob Pullen opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers with Fred Brown, starting in Clemente's place, soon connecting on his own back-to-back treys. Butchi Awaji nailed his first of three first-half treys with 12:56 on the clock and the Wildcats were up 20-13 against Idaho State's zone defense.

"We played against a zone, and when you play against a tight zone, a zone that is determined to take away our interior, you are going to have to make some jump shots," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "We made some early, we missed a bunch of good ones in the middle and then we made some again late. I'd like it to be a little more consistent, a little less streaky than it was, but I thought we took good shots."

Jamar Samuels' leaping eight-footer at the 11:31 mark was the Cats' first field goal from inside the line, putting K-State up 22-13.

It wasn't a particularly pretty start for the Wildcats, but it got the job done as they held off their pesky visitors. K-State's consistent defensive effort -- with a little uncharacteristic first-half zone thrown in -- helped the Wildcats slowly pull away to a 40-22 halftime lead on its way to moving to 10-3 on the season. Idaho State fell to 4-11.

"I think it's been consistently good for a while," Martin said of his team's defense. "Early on we tried to play some zone and forgot to go guard the shooters, and they had two guys step up and make shots. You can't forget to guard the shooters in a zone, but that's more on me because we rarely play zone that early in the game.

"We had to figure out a way where at least defensively we didn't exhaust our guards because we were shorthanded at the guard spot."

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