The Wildcats officially begin their EA Sports Maui Invitational schedule on Monday, with the UMKC Kangaroos coming into town for a game billed as the "Opening Game" of the preseason tournament. K-State is coming in off a 98-68 win over Southern Utah on Friday, in which we saw a combined 56 fouls whistled, the good guys shoot nearly 60% from the floor, and a lot of athleticism demonstrated. Not to go unmentioned, also one positively mean denial by Brandon Bolden, which has become something of a viral phenomenon, showing up on my personal twitter feed no fewer than 10 times.
For K-State, stars G Marcus Foster and F Thomas Gipson have continued their solid play from last season, with Foster chipping in 13pts in only 19 minutes of action due to foul trouble, and Big Gip with 17pts, 6reb on Friday. Bright spots of note included G Nigel Johnson coming in off the bench with a career high 18pts combined with 5ast, and G Jevon Thomas - who appears to have put a lot of off-season effort into his shooting - contributing 8pts, 5ast, and 3stl. Finally, F Stephen Hurt shows some impressive ability as a full-floor big man, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as step out and hit the 3 (11pts on perfect FG%). All in all, the Cats logged six double-figure scoring efforts.
Know Your Opponent
The 'Roos are coming in off a surprising upset of Mizzou last week, toppling the Tigers 69-61 in Columbia. How much weight should be put into that result is somewhat suspect, though, as Mizzou is very much an unknown quantity themselves, with an abundance of youth and a brand new coach. UMKC is a pretty young squad, with 10 of their 15 being underclassmen, but kept the Tigers at arms' length the entirety of the 40 minutes.
Keep a close watch on:
Sophomore G Martez Harrison. Harrison is coming off a freshman campaign where he earned WAC Freshman of the Year accolades, averaging 17.2ppg and 3.8apg. In their win against the Tigers, Harrison put up 26pts in 28 minutes of floor time, getting to the line 16 times in the effort. Additionally, F Shayok Shayok (pronounced "shee-ock shee-ock") - a junior transfer from Bradley University - played solid with 10pts and 7reb in 32 minutes.
It's early in the season. Picking up on tendencies of a team is a little difficult, with the lack of media available and all. From what I could tell, looks like UMKC ran a decent amount of 2-3 zone defense against Mizzou (makes sense - youth and lack of true shooters for the Tigers), but K-State's willingness to shoot the 3-ball with the ability to make at a decent clip should force UMKC to play man-to-man or maybe a matchup zone if its in their repertoire. Their offensive capability doesn't scream high-octane, so keeping track of Harrison will be paramount.
Of note, the previous time UMKC earned a victory over a power conference foe? December 30, 2003 - a 93-52 shellacking of our very own Wildcats. Yeesh.
F Stephen Hurt, 6-11 265 Jr
F Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
G Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
G Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So
G Justin Edwards, 6-4 200 Jr
University of Missouri-Kansas City:
F Reese Holliday, 6-4 215 Sr
F Thaddeus Smith, 6-9 245 Jr
F Shayok Shayok, 6-8 220 Jr
G Martez Harrison, 5-11 190 So
G Frank Williams, 6-6 175 Sr
3 Keys To The Game
Obviously, this game is a should-win for the Cats. Bruce Weber's crew needs to take care of business, and not look forward to their Thanksgiving travel plans.
1. Score the basketball.
This should go without saying, but if K-State goes toe-to-toe in a sloppy slugfest with scores in the 60s, it could spell trouble for the Wildcats. With the athleticism and talent on this team, there's no reason for that to happen. I'm thinking first one to 70 wins. We're the better basketball team. Go prove it.
2. Clean up the sloppy play.
The exhibition game against Washburn had some tired legs and turnovers by the end of the game, and we were tweeted for 25 fouls against Southern Utah. Its early in the season; however, these things need to get mitigated and not become a trend. We have pretty amazing depth on the roster, but there's no reason to use all of it if we don't need to.
3. Rebounding focus.
K-State is giving up an average of 15.5orpg...which just isn't good enough. There's no reason Washburn and Southern Utah should be getting better than 15 additional chances at the bucket. Effort and focus reign supreme here. Get our minds in the right spot, our fundamentals on the proper wavelength. When F Nino Williams and F Malek Harris are available (both out with injury), this issue will probably right itself. Nonetheless, a poor rebounding effort on the defensive glass can haunt any team.