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Cats Take Hoops Openers

By Mark Janssen

For those who have questioned K-State's shooting ability, on this night they munched on their words as the Wildcats settled into a 3-point game that resulted in a 75-61 victory over James Madison in the 2010-11 season opener in Bramlage Coliseum.

With freshmen and sophomores playing 130 minutes, coach Frank Martin said of the opener, "It was a  typical opener with so many young guys playing. It was sloppy, we had mistakes and we had no rhythm."
 
"It was not perfection," under-stated senior guard Jacob Pullen. "We lacked a little energy, but that will come."
 
It was a game where K-State's 6-foot-5 and under guys did well hitting 10-of-19 from 3-point range, but the "bigs" struggled throughout.
  
K-State's perimeter gang totaled 65 of the team's 75 points, which left only 10, collectively, for Jordan Henriquez-Roberts (6), Wally Judge (2), Jamar Samuels (2) and Freddy Asprilla (0) on a combined 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
 
As Martin bluntly said, "Our self-proclaimed best front-line in the country isn't any good right now."
 
After swishing 7-of-12 treys in the first half in opening a 38-30 advantage, the 'Cats turned up the defensive pressure in the opening minutes of the second half with the guards doing the scoring at the offensive end.
 
Pullen (6), Rodney McGruder (5) and Nick Russell (4) accounted for 15 of KSU's first 17 points in the second half when it blitzed James Madison by a 17-5 count to open the period and extend the lead to 20, 55-35.
 
A win is a win, but Martin summed up the night by saying, "I was honest with you two days ago. We're not a good basketball team right now. I didn't just say that. We're not a good basketball team right now. Our young kids are trying to figure it out and our upperclassmen have been awful in their ability to lead this basketball team. It is what it is."
 
PULLEN FACTOR: Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Jacob Pullen lived up to that status in the first minutes of the game by accounting for K-State's first 15 points of the game, either by scoring or dishing out assists.
 
No. 0 hit three free throws at the 18:32 mark for KSU's first points of the season, then drilled a trey, and then dished out three consecutive assists for 3-pointers to Nick Russell and a pair to Rodney McGruder in the Wildcats' first 11 possessions of the season.
 
Pullen also opened the second half by scoring nine of KSU's first 25 points and would finish with a game-high of 20 points with five assists and three steals in just 24 minutes of court time.
 
STAR OF THE GAME (not named Pullen): Nick Russell posted career numbers as the 6-4 guard from Duncanville, Texas, scored  19 points, plus had four assists and a steal in 31 minutes of play.


"Nick's playing aggressive. He's found a different gear to play with," said Martin. "He still makes mistakes defensively, but he's trying harder."
 
What did upset Martin was Russell's ball movement: "The ball gets to him and he holds the basketball. Either shoot it or pass it, but when you hold it, you kill the offense."
 
SUB OF THE GAME: Will Spradling kept the Wildcats in the game in the first half by scoring eight points in his 11 minutes of action. Spradling, a 6-2 freshman, nailed a pair of 3-pointers, plus both of his attempts from the foul line. Spradling ended up with nine points.
 
STAT OF THE GAME: To open the game, K-State did not make a two-point field goal until the 7:11 of the first half.
 
K-State opened the game making 6-of-9 from 3-point range, but missed all nine of its casts from the shorter distance.
 
The Wildcats ended up shooting 7-of-12 (58 percent) from afar, and 5-of-19 (26 percent) from the two-point distance in the first half. Oh yes, the 'Cats were also 7-of-14 from the foul line in the first half.
 
NOT IN UNIFORM: Missing the game were Curtis Kelly and Nino Williams.
 
While Williams has a concussion, Martin said of Kelly, "He needs to figure out if he wants to be a good teammate. I wasn't in the mood to play him with the way he's been practicing. If you don't do it the right way, you're not going to play for me. I don't care who you are."
 
UP NEXT:
Kansas State will entertain Virginia Tech on Tuesday with a 3 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised on ESPN with Bob Knight and Brent Musberger making the call. The 'Cats will also be hosting Presbyterian on Thursday night at 7.

WOMEN PICK UP WIN IN OPENER: With the help of a 16-3 run to open the second half, Kansas State won its ninth straight game in the Commerce Bank Wildcat Classic with a 67-44 decision over Grambling State on Friday afternoon. The Wildcats will play in the title game of the event today for the 16th straight time.

Sophomore guard Britttany Chambers led all scorers with a career-high 21 points, including 16 in the second half. The native of Jordan, Minn., also registered seven rebounds and six assists. Chambers' tallied her previous career-high of 20 on two occasions during her freshman season.

Joining Chambers in double figures was junior forward Jalana Childs with a career-high 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. The product of Orlando, Fla., surpassed her previous career-high of 15 points from the Jan. 9, 2010 contest against Kansas.