Given the number of times Oklahoma has broken my heart, I was getting ready to send my beer mug through the TV screen at BW3 last night as the game wound down. Even when Clent Stewart dropped that big three-pointer to give the Cats a four-point lead, I knew something bad would happen.
It did. Blake Griffin happened.
But the Cats didn't play like a bunch of freshmen with a first-year coach in response. Rather, they drew up a play, improvised when it didn't go perfectly, and found their go-to player for an easy layup with just a couple seconds left.
None of us could have drawn up a better start to conference play. These kids looked like they needed a bit of a wakeup call to realize what it would take to win in conference play. They got it in the form of a tough-as-nails Sooner team with ability at every position. Let's break it down.
What I liked...
Clent Stewart. The kid was only in traction all week and played 32 minutes in pain, and came up with nine points, five assists and only two turnovers. And on top of that, he showed some serious senior leadership by nailing a huge three-pointer at a crucial time down the stretch. There is no flash to his game and he's hugely underappreciated by the fans, me included, but when he's done, K-State will sorely miss what he has brought to the table.
Three-point shooting. First, we only took 17 shots from the arc. That's a stat that we will be looking at after each game this year. If our guys can resist the urge to stand outside and jack up three-pointers (less than 20/game would be ideal), we will have a great chance to win a lot of games. Second, take note of the fact that we made 47 percent of our attempts. I'm going to make a prediction: we will win 95 percent of the games where we take less than 20 three-pointers and make 40+ percent of them.
Michael Beasley. Ho-hum, another double-double. Another 30-point game. That puts him at 24.8 points and 13.1 rebounds on the year.
Given that I was kind of hard on him this week, props must also go to Bill Walker. He played tough defense, made a couple outside shots, and had two thunderous dunks. Keep it up, Bill, I'd much rather give compliments than criticisms.
Dominique Sutton continues to impress me. He improved his shooting percentage on the year to 83 percent by going 1-for-1 from the field yesterday. That's impressive to me because he understands it's not his role to take outside shots. He sticks to breakaway dunks/layups that he creates with his solid defensive play. What's not to like about a guy who is 10-for-12 from the floor on the year and has more steals than turnovers?
Jacob Pullen learned from his earlier mistake in the Oregon game (the charging call with just seconds left) and made a smart move to the basket before dishing off to Beasley. I thought it was funny Griffin tried to sell that as a charge, considering Pullen could probably take a running start from halfcourt and not knock Griffin over.
Really, compliments should go to the entire team for their play yesterday. That includes the coaching staff. A young team, led by a first-year coach, went into Norman and picked up K-State's first win there since I was in sixth grade. What's more, they really played as a team yesterday, running an actual offense and helping each other on defense.
What I didn't like...
There really isn't a lot to complain about. Most notably, OU outrebounded the Cats, which is always a concern given how important rebounds are to this team. But OU is in the top-half of the conference in hitting the glass, and Blake Griffin is a beast. The most serious complaint was allowing OU to grab 12 offensive rebounds. We need to stop giving up double-digit second-chance opportunities.
The only other real complaint was our lack of balance overall. Only Beasley and Walker scored in double figures, whereas OU had four players in double figures. If just one more player would step up and be a consistent scoring threat, then Wildcat fans could get really excited about this season's prospects. Considering Stewart scored nine points, maybe I shouldn't complain too much.
The team now takes a week off before meeting the Texas A&M Aggies in Bramlage Coliseum this weekend. I like the layoff, strange as it may sound. It will give the coaches extra time to get ready for the Aggies, as well as to grab the players' attention and make them realize they can't rest on the laurels of one victory.
We picked up a huge road win yesterday, and Texas found out road wins don't come easily in the Big 12. Now we need to get home and protect home court. A 2-0 start would be huge, but we really need to stay in the mode of taking things one game at a time.
Now that the game recap is done, let's look at what others are saying about the Cats.
Nice article about Frank Martin's childhood here from the KC Star. Martin's father left his family when Frank was nine years old. Thankfully, Martin handled it better than some people. Also, quite a change of tone considering some of the past pieces about Martin from Star sportswriters. Seriously, go read that article from Whitlock I just linked. I don't know how he gets paid to write crap like that.
Meant to get around to posting this earlier, but Michael Beasley was the subject of a seven-page story in Sports Illustrated this week. You can read the article online here, or go out and buy a copy like I just did today. Not particularly flattering of Dalonte Hill, but that story has already been beaten to death. Beasley has really matured from some of the silly pranks he pulled back in the day.
"...he chose Kansas State so he could not be subjected to a share-the-ball atmosphere, a place where he could showcase his talents, and his alone, and try and improve his already sky-high draft stock. Beasley is about himself, flat-out."
I'll go ahead and respectfully disagree with my colleague here. For one thing, Beasley has been saying all the right things from the beginning:
"If I score 30 points and the rest of our team doesn't score, we lose, right?" he said. "So this is 'The Kansas State Show.'"
OK, great. But talk is cheap, right? Yeah, I suppose. Beasley also said in the same press conference that he might stay at K-State all four years.
"I think it (college) is fun enough for me to stick around and get my degree," he said. "I plan on getting my degree before anything."
I don't blame him for saying that. If he says he's outta here after the season, he will be called selfish and disloyal. If he says he's staying, and then he leaves, there will be some--not me--who denounce his 'lack of honesty.' Here's my thing, I'll believe it when I see it. When NBA scouts start whispering $8 million in his ear, it would be awfully difficult for most people to stick around.
But, I digress. The point was that talk can be cheap. But Beasley's team talk isn't cheap. He doesn't prop up his stats at the expense of successful team play. Let's compare Beasley's numbers with USC's O.J. Mayo...
Beasley: FG--139-243 (57 percent), 3-pt.--12-34 (35 percent), 372 points (team: 1221 points)
Mayo: FG--117-264 (44 percent), 3-pt.--38-101 (37.6 percent), 319 points (team: 1089 points)
So let's sort this out. He's scoring more points, on fewer shots, and hitting a higher percentage of his shots.
By the way, USC is 9-6 and has lost three of its last four games.
Two more points, and then I'm done with this issue. First, Beasley didn't come to K-State because he didn't want a "share-the-ball" atmosphere. He came because of Dalonte Hill (read the SI article linked above). He'd be the main attraction at any school he went to, no matter how talented the team. He's that good. Beyond that, Beasley doesn't have anything to prove. He's already considered the top prospect for next year's NBA draft, and is pretty much a guaranteed lottery pick.
Going around the Big 12 from yesterday:
It's a little too early to get into much analysis or to show the league standings, but that'll be a weekly staple around here.