Tonight's 100-63 victory over Missouri was pretty much exactly what this team needed. After Wednesday's tough loss in Lubbock, we needed to see the Cats bounce back against a team that had knocked them off earlier in the season. They did just that, and then some.
What I liked...
...Michael Beasley. Looked like he was plenty motivated tonight to come out and make amends for his pedestrian effort in Columbia. How about this for a stat line: 40 points 17 rebounds, two steals, 14-of-15 free throws. We'll get into this more this week, but there is absolutely no reasonable doubt that Beasley is the national player of the year. None. I repeat...none.
...Bill Walker. After almost every post-game post I write, I feel like I've dogged on Walker unfairly. But I can say absolutely nothing bad about what he did tonight. How about 18 points, four assists, two blocks, one steal. No attitude issues, no hustling issues. I should also say that a lot of the time, when I seem to have an issue with Walker's attitude (i.e. after bad referee calls), the problem stems from his intensity and desire to win. Nothing wrong with that.
...Jacob Pullen. This kid is really finding his way out there. He's learning to create his own shot, and he's a solid drive-and-dish player already. I should note that, on the season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is about 1.4-to-1, which is amazing considering he was about about 0.5-to-1 coming into Big 12 play. His improvement against better competition has been astounding and gives me hope for next year.
...the play of the backups in garbage time. Specifically, I though Ron Anderson and Luis Colon did a nice job out there late in the second half. We are really going to need some Anderson to develop into a solid starter next year, assuming Beasley and Walker are gone. For this year, I'll take seven points and six rebounds from Anderson anyday. As for Colon, his improve play has not yet translated to the stat sheet (he only scored four tonight), but what I've noticed is he looks more comfortable on the court. He's not picking up rough, stupid fouls, and he is getting into the flow of the game more. Furthermore, he hustles out there.
...seeing Andre Gilbert back in the lineup. He didn't show up much on the stat sheet, but his presence goes beyond stats. He's a solid defender, isn't a total liability on offense (like Chris Merriewether is), and he knows his role and executes it. Can't ask much more.
...getting Dominique Sutton another game of rest. We are really going to need him for "The Run of Truth" and I don't want him to come back too early in a game we should be able to win without him and make things worse. Make no mistake, he is a huge part of the team, but we will need him a lot more starting one week from tonight than we needed him tonight.
...Frank Martin. I would be absolutely remiss not to mention Martin here. I said before the conference season the success or failure of this season would rest on Martin, and not Beasley or Walker. If you know anything about basketball, and you watched that game tonight, you saw a team that was prepared, that knew how to run its sets, and that ran a system that works. I am happy to have Frank Martin as the coach of my Kansas State Wildcats.
What I didn't like...
...only one thing. I hate the fact that it takes occasional reminders for this team to play focused basketball every minute of every game. First it was the Xavier loss, where we heard that was the last straw. And it seemed to be, because it led to a six-game winning streak, culminated by the historic victory over the 'beakers. Then, it was the second-half collapse at Mizzou, and we heard that never again would the team allow itself to lose focus like that. That led to a two-game winning "streak." Now it's the Texas Tech game. I would hope everybody has learned by now that the margin for error is practically non-existent right now. We have a tough finishing stretch, but we do have games against the two teams we will be battling for the regular-season league title.
Around the Big 12 today...
KU 69, Colorado 45
A friend of mine informed me that the line on this one was KU -24.5, and Colorado made a late layup to cut the margin of victory to 24. Bet there were a few KU fans that lost a couple bucks on that one. Other than that, not much to say about this one. The 'beakers were on cruise control against a totally overmatched team that looked like it was dying to get back to Colorado.
Oklahoma State 59, Texas A&M 54
This game represents Okie State's first road win in conference play since approximately the days of Christopher Columbus. I caught some of it on the Internet (just so you know, ChannelSurfing.net is a very useful Web site), but it really was an unremarkable game. For A&M, it's a real dagger, as it drops them to four conference losses, meaning they are now likely playing for a Thursday bye in Kansas City.
Iowa State 60, Nebraska 52
There are probably a lot of four-letter words that describe this game, but I'll choose this one: u-g-l-y. The halftime tally was Nebraska 24, Iowa State 11. So then the Cyclones, who are about as good at scoring points as I am at picking a good wine (note: there is no such thing as good wine. I hate it all), scored 49 in the second half against Nebraska. Sounds like a little Hilton Magic.
Oklahoma 66, Texas Tech 64
Although it wasn't good for us, it was a really good thing for Pat Knight that he got his first win on Wednesday, because if he hadn't he'd be wondering if he was ever going to win one after today. David Godbold pulled up for about a 30 footer with two seconds left, wasn't squared up, and was moving sideways...and hit nothing but net. Not much you can do after a shot like that, but Martin Zeno tried with a three at the buzzer. With the win, Oklahoma is back to 5-5 in conference, tied with Baylor and only a game behind A&M.
Texas 82, Baylor 77
This game looked well in hand for Texas with two minutes to go, so much so that I stopped paying attention. Then the announcers on our game said it was a four-point game. I just had to see that, and I'm not sorry I did. What happened was unbelievable and a little hard to describe, so I'll direct you to Burnt Orange Nation for more. With the win, Texas remains tied with K-State, one-half game behind KU and tied in the loss column. Baylor is fading fast, having lost five of its last six, and face a tough finishing stretch. The Bears are now in a battle to hold onto their once-nearly-certain NCAA tournament berth.
KU 9-2 (Saturday @ Oklahoma State)
K-State 8-2 (Wednesday @ Nebraska, Saturday @ Baylor)
Texas 8-2 (Monday Texas A&M, Saturday Oklahoma)
Texas A&M 6-4 (Monday @ Texas, Saturday Nebraska)
Baylor 5-5 (Tuesday @ Oklahoma, Saturday K-State)
Oklahoma 5-5 (Tuesday Oklahoma, Saturday @ Texas)
Texas Tech 4-6 (Wednesday @ Colorado, Saturday Iowa State)
Iowa State 4-7 (Saturday @ Texas Tech)
Missouri 4-7 (Saturday Colorado)
Oklahoma State 4-7 (Saturday KU)
Nebraska 3-7 (Wednesday K-State, Saturday @ Texas A&M)
Colorado 3-7 (Wednesday Texas Tech, Saturday @ Missouri)
It's been a great season, K-State fans, but the best part is still in front of us.