Now that's more like it!
Through this team's first four conference games, I think we all wondered what had happened to our basketball team. Gone was the running-and-gunning, fast-breaking, glass-crashing, tough defending team we'd seen against a bunch of non-conference patsies. The Cats were unable to impose their tempo on Big 12 teams and looked completely lost.
Until last night, that is, when the shots fell again, the tempo picked up, the defense improved, and the turnovers subsided a little bit. Maybe it was because we were playing Missouri, who likes to play that tempo, or maybe it was because this team is finally starting to gain a little confidence. Either way, it was a lot of fun to see them win at Bramlage.
What I liked...
...Jamar freakin' Samuels. He scored 18 points on only nine shots. The kid is so efficient, and he's gaining confidence by the second. After the KU game I called for Samuels to start so that he could learn his way through his mistakes because he is clearly the most talented forward we have. Maybe he didn't start last night, but I don't think there has ever been clearer evidence that Samuels is a potential star in the making.
...the return of Jacob Pullen. Welcome back, Jake. We've missed you and needed you. When Jake scores 23 points on 16 shots, we're going to win a lot of games. It was nice to see him take good shots from the three-point line and, surprise, make a lot of them (5-8).
...a 3:2 assist:turnover ratio. Much better ball movement led to easy shots against Missouri, and it showed in this category and the fact that we shot 53 percent from the field.
...the return of our defense. For the game, we held Missouri to 39 percent shooting. That's the same Mizzou squad that averages 49 percent from the field in Big 12 play. It really was nice not to have the opponent hovering around the 60 percent shooting mark.
...a much more efficient Denis Clemente. He only scored 10 points, but it only took him six shots to get those 10 points. Muy, muy bien, Denis.
What I didn't like...
...free throw woes. Sixty percent? Yuck.
...poor first-half defense on Matt Lawrence. I was left shaking my head and muttering to myself after Denis Clemente helped off Lawrence on a drive, leaving Lawrence open for a three from the corner. Our guys have to know better than that by now. Fortunately, Lawrence only went off for five triples, rather than nine like LaceDarius Dunn.
...too many minutes for Darren Kent. I am sorry, Darren, because you are a senior and you've worked hard over your time at K-State. He's trying. Unfortunately, I think he's trying a little too hard right now and is really playing poorly. A line that reads 2-7 from the field with only two rebounds and four turnovers just isn't going to get it done.
What it means and where we're going...
Let's hope it means this team has turned a corner. I was unsure where the win over Colorado would leave us. Either we were going to play with a newfound confidence, or we were going to still be unsure of ourselves after a narrow win against the worst team in the league. For at least last night, it was the former, as that looked like the Cats of early January and most of December.
Now we journey south to Austin for a matchup with the Texas Longhorns. Texas is 15-4 (4-1) and just picked up a hard-fought road victory over Baylor on Tuesday. It will undoubtedly be a difficult matchup for the Cats, but know this, Wildcat fans. I will be in attendance, and when I go to K-State games in Austin, we win. It happened in 2007 in basketball. It happened in 2007 in football. I am Texas' kryptonite.