By Mark Janssen
If Tuesday's Wildcat showing is a sign of hoops to come, cheer-on K-Staters ... cheer on.
Just when one was about to question the chemistry of this K-State team, and just when one might be thinking this roster of 10 freshmen and sophomores was too young ... they displayed maturity beyond their years, and flashed a coming of age moment in the 73-57 victory over No. 24 Virginia Tech.
Just when one knew the Purples were finished when Jacob Pullen had two fouls (18:32), and then three (12:33), so early in the game, 'Cat, after 'Cat, after 'Cat stepped to the front.
"He plays with tremendous effort and he listens," said Martin of Spradling. "If you can figure that part out, you usually get along with me very well."
While leading 30-29 at the half, K-State had not rebounded the ball, and then opened the second half with a missed shot and four turnovers.
Just when the Wildcats appeared to be heading south with their game, two negative-turned-positive possessions rotated the mood of the game - where the Wildcats took a combined seven shots, snagged five offensive rebounds, and ended each series with a pair of Rodney McGruder buckets.
"We came together," said McGruder. "We were facing adversity, but then we took the lead and never looked back."
Just when McGruder's heroics put K-State into the lead, another sophomore took over as Martavious Irving stepped off the bench and drilled a trio of treys when Tech went to its junk defenses of the box-and-one and triangle-and-two.
Pullen said of what would be a 29-8 Wildcat surge, "We came together as a team. Everybody had a big play that was a momentum builder."
At the opposite end, K-State was suffocating.
"Defensively, they remind me a little bit of Duke," said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg. "Their effort is a good place to start, but they have good technique as well. There are a lot of ways to guard. Some guard up the line, and some people guard on the line. They guard on the line, and up the line."
Greenberg continued, "In any sport you can be brilliant ... you can be Bill Belichick, but if you do not get effort you will not stop anyone."
Martin agreed, plus confirmed, "Effort is not an issue with our team. It's a matter of staying focused on the task at hand."
Just when K-State seemed to be plagued by a lack of focus, such a thought was put to rest.
Tuesday with Pullen and others on the bench, Martin noted, "They were coaching their tails off on the sideline. That's what good teammates do. That is what it's all about."
What it's all about is "teacher" Martin doing his best job of coaching.
TONIGHT AT BRAMLAGE: K-State puts its 2-0 record on the line against Presbyterian College at 7 tonight in Bramlage Coliseum. The Blue Hose opened with an exhibition win over Newberry, 83-61, but then lost in regular season play to Vanderbilt, 88-47. A year ago the team went 5-26. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Kansas City and on ESPN Full Court.
OK, WHAT'S A BLUE HOSE? According to the Presbyterian press release, a Blue Hose is a "... fierce Scotch-Irish Warrior." The release adds, like was seen in the movie Braveheart.
MORE ABOUT PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE: Located in Clinton, S.C., the school has an enrollment of 1,200 and a faculty-to-student ratio of 13-to-1.