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November 19, 2008Before heading on the road to take on a Cleveland State team, which is the odds-on favorite to win the Horizon League this season, Coach Frank Martin's Kansas State squad will play host to Emporia State. The Division II Hornets come to town with a 1-0 record, but also carrying lopsided exhibition losses to both Kansas and Wichita State. A regular-season game that will count on the Wildcats' win-loss record, Wednesday's contest should be taken seriously, but make no mistake, as he watches from the bench, Martin will have more in mind than the final score alone.
Saying the 2nd-year head coach was upset with his team's effort in Sunday's 88-68 win over Southeast Missouri State wouldn't be inaccurate, in this case, "furious" might be a better word.
After calling the performance "lackadaisical," "selfish" and "lethargic," Martin said he would correct his team's problems during practice. Yeah, it was probably a long couple days for point guard Jacob Pullen and his teammates, but if things don't look drastically better against the Hornets, the next couple days could be much worse.
"I don't hold grudges," Martin said. "You can't hold grudges and be any good at what you do. We'll go in there, and if any one of them brings that selfish stuff into the practice gym, there will be issues. When we play well, I tell them we have to get it out of our system. When we play bad, we have to do the same."
Moving on. It's what Wednesday's game is truly all about, and leaving every last one of the traits that almost caused their head to blow a gasket following Sunday's win will be of high priority. Of course winning is always the most important thing, but the Wildcat players have been made fully aware of the bigger picture.
For Pullen and company, keeping their coach happy and success will go hand-in-hand from here on out.
"You just have to stay focused and stick to your principles," said senior forward Darren Kent. "Those games are ones to work on your offense and other things that you don't do well, and that is the way that you have to look at them."
These things don't take care of themselves. Martin has already designed a plan to ensure he never see his team play another game that so much as resembles the last. So while the plan of action may not be popular in his locker room, he feels it will be effective.
"If I see the selfish stuff that' looks lackadaisical and the lack of desire for a single second in practice, then practice is going to get a little bit hectic," he said.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: K-State certainly has the personnel to dispose of Emporia State with little to no trouble, but as Martin has made abundantly clear in recent days, mailing this game in is no more of an option than losing it intentionally. Anything but all-out domination on both ends of the court will be unacceptable for Martin and his players.
The Wildcats have shown a knack for playing an up-tempo style of basketball for chunks of time during the early season, and should be focused on doing so for an entire game against Emporia State. If K-State is indeed successful in doing so, it could be a very long day for the Hornets, who lack the horses to keep up with the Wildcats.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE WILDCATS: A different K-State guard has led the team in scoring every time the Wildcats have taken the court in 2008. In the exhibition game against Washburn, it was Pullen, it was transfer Denis Clemente in the season-opener and in the team's last game, it was Fred Brown. A much-improved backcourt combined with the possible emergence of Kent, a forward, as a key offensive cog has left few doubters when it comes to the Wildcats' ability to light up the scoreboard, especially against this level of competition.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HORNETS: It's been all Jeremiah Box for Emporia State so far this season. The 6-foot-5 forward is the only Hornet player averaging double figures, and their scoring starts with him. The 28 points he recoded during his team's last game were the most in an Emporia State season opener since the 2001 season.