Kansas State may be coming off a 74-55 win, but after leaving Manhattan for a four game stretch that resulted in three losses, Jacob Pullen and his Wildcat teammates have almost certainly developed a new level of appreciation for their home court. K-State will return to Bramlage Coliseum, where it has yet to lose this season, on Sunday, and protecting its home court will once again become priority No. 1.
But that doesn't mean doing so will be easy.
Don't be fooled by the hyphen or its 2-6 record, Gardner-Webb, the Wildcats' Sunday opponent, is capable of stealing an upset win.
The Running Bulldogs, a Big South Conference contender, were edged by Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma by just four points earlier this season and knocked off a 20tth ranked Kentucky team a year ago. So while Gardner-Webb hasn't exactly been playing its best basketball as of late, the role of "giant killer" is not an unfamiliar act for the North Carolina-based University.
In fact, over the last few years, the Bulldogs have made a habit of making people pay for looking past them, a pitfall the Wildcats will attempt to avoid.
"You have to walk the path. You have to understand the reasons why you succeed and the reasons that you don't," K-State head coach Frank Martin said. "I think our guys embraced that. We don't dwell. Obviously in basketball, the RPI, the non-conference road wins, all those things are huge for what happens in March. We can't worry about March. We have to worry about now, worry about the next practice, the next game."
The old "one-game-at-a-time" adage is cliché for a reason, and the tired saying something that seems to hold true with this year's Wildcats. As a team comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores struggles to find an identity, inconstancy is born.
The inconsistency is inevitable, and everyone who has watched K-State, 6-3 on the year, for any significant time period sees it. The challenge now, however, is eliminating it before the start of conference play, and back-to-back convincing victories would be a solid start at doing so.
"I've been happy with out approach," Martin said. "I've been happy with how we've played. Offensively, we're a work in progress. There are times that, as guys continue to embrace new roles and new responsibilities, we've taken bad shots.
As we continue to embrace those roles, we'll keep getting better."
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