'Cats and Eagles Tangle in Sprint Center

Game Information

Kansas State (5-3) vs. Southern Miss (4-3)

Date: Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tipoff: 7:10 p.m. CT

Location: Kansas City, Mo.

Arena: Sprint Center (2007)

Capacity: 18,795

Series: Southern Miss leads 3-2
(K-State is 1-0 in Kansas City)

Television: FOX Sports Kansas City

Ben Boyle (play-by-play)

Stan Weber (analyst)

Brian McCann (producer)

Satellite Channels: DirecTV 672, Dish Network 446

Radio: K-State Sports Network; Powercat Passport Internet Audio; Yahoo! Internet Radio; Sirius Satellite 123

Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play)

Matt Walters (analyst)

Tickets: Tickets are available for $25 by calling Ticketmaster at (816) 931.3330 or on the internet at www.Ticketmaster.com. 


Kansas State Wildcats

Record: 5-3 (0-0 Big 12)

Ranking (AP/Coaches): --/--

Coach: Frank Martin

Alma Mater: Florida International, 93

Career Record: 26-15/1

School Record: 26-15/1

vs. Southern Miss: 0-0

07-08 Record: 21-12 (10-6 Big 12)

Last game: Dec. 7, 2008

Lost at Oregon, 75-70

SID: Tom Gilbert

Website: www.k-statesports.com


Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Record: 4-3 (0-0 C-USA)

Ranking (AP/Coaches): --/--

Coach: Larry Eustachy

Alma Mater: Long BeachState, 79

Career Record: 324-211/18

School Record: 64-66/5

vs. Kansas State: 6-4

07-08 Record: 19-14 (9-7 C-USA)

Last game: Dec. 6, 2008

Lost at New Mexico, 60-58

SID: Tim Andrzejewski

Website: www.southernmiss.com


Game Preview

Kansas State returns from a long three-game road trip on Thursday, as the Wildcats host Southern Miss (4-3) in the second annual K-State Holiday Classic presented by Subway at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.  Last season, the squad went 1-1 in the arena, earning an 87-60 win over Florida A&M in the first installment of the Classic before dropping a 63-60 decision to Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship.  This will be the second game with the Golden Eagles in Kansas City with the Wildcats posting a 70-68 win in the BMA Holiday Classic on Dec. 28, 1991 at Kemper Arena.

K-State dropped its third straight contest by single digits on Sunday, as the Wildcats lost 75-70 at Oregon in the second installment of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series at McArthur Court.  The squad held a 38-35 lead at halftime before the Ducks used a 17-6 run over the first six minutes of the second half to take the lead.  K-State rallied to cut the lead to 69-68 with 2:48 remaining, however, senior Tajuan Porter capped his 28-point effort with four straight free throws to clinch the game for Oregon.  Junior Denis Clemente led four players in double figures with 19 points, while redshirt freshman Jamar Samuels and sophomore Ron Anderson added 14 and 12 points, respectively.   

The contest against Southern Miss will be televised on FOX Sports Kansas City (DirecTV 672 and Dish Network 446) with Ben Boyle (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) calling the action.  Fans will also be able to watch the contest on the ESPN Full Court package as well as ESPN360.com.  For more information on ESPN’s Full Court package as well as ESPN360.com, fans should consult ESPN’s website at http://proxy.espn.go.com/ncb/fullcourt/. It will the fourth of 12 appearances on the FSN Kansas City for the Wildcats this season and one of 26 regular-season contests that will be televised.

Fans will also be able to listen to the audio broadcast on the 29-station K-State Sports Network (Powercat Passport Internet Audio; Yahoo! Internet Radio; Sirius Satellite 147) with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Matt Walters (analyst) on the call.

Ticket Information

Tickets are priced at $25 for the game at all Ticketmaster outlets by calling (816) 931.3330 or online at Ticketmaster.com.

K-State in Kansas City

Kansas State has a long tradition of playing games in Kansas City, dating back 65 years to the Kansas City Holiday Tournament.  The Wildcats played at least one game in the city from 1943 to 2002, which included the Holiday Tournament (1943-46), Big Six/Seven/ Eight Holiday Tournament (1946-79), NCAA West Regional Tournament (1948 and 1951), NCAA Final Four (1964), Big Eight/12 Tournament (1979-2002; 2005) and BMA Holiday Classic (1990-91).

The era in Kansas City has spanned three different arenas, including famed Municipal Auditorium (1943-76, 2003), Kemper Arena (1977-2002, 2005) and the Sprint Center (2007-present).

State is 98-68 (.590) all-time in Kansas City, including a 1-1 mark at the Sprint Center.  The Wildcats have won four of their last six regular season games in the city dating back to 1990.

Cats in December

Kansas State is 437-232 (.654) all-time in the month of December, including wins in 29 of its last 39 games.  The Wildcats have won 24 of their last 25 games at home in December dating back to the 2002-03 season, including their current 12-game homecourt winning streak.  The team’s last loss at home in the month came to Rutgers, 76-66, on Dec. 28, 2004.  It was the first December home loss since 2001.

Last season, K-State posted its sixth consecutive winning December dating back to the 2002-03 season.  The squad went 4-2 in the month  in 2007-08, defeating California (82-75), Florida A&M (87-60), Winston-Salem State (90-48) and Wagner (101-59) at home and losing to Notre Dame (68-59) and Xavier (103-77) at neutral sites.  

Most November Wins

Kansas State finished the month of November with a 5-2 record, which tied the 1998-99 (5-2) and 2007-08 (5-2) squads for the most in the month in school history.  In all, the Wildcats are 76-23 (.768) in the month, including wins in 25 of its last 31 games.  The team has won 21 of its last 22 games at home in November dating back to the 2003-04 season.  The team saw its 17-game homecourt winning streak in the month end in an 80-77 overtime loss to No. 17 Oregon on Nov. 29, 2008.  It was the first November home loss since 2002.

Rally Cats

Kansas State have rallied from deficits in the second half in each of its last three losses, including double-digit deficits in games against Kentucky and Iowa at the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 28-29.

K-State was down 17 points (54-37) to Kentucky with 12:44 left in the second half on Nov. 28 and used a 22-7 run to cut the advantage to 61-59 with 5:31 remaining.  After falling back down by eight with 3:34 left, the Wildcats once again the cut the lead to two at 71-69 with a 10-4 run with just 19 seconds remaining.  However, it wasn’t enough, as Kentucky hit three of four free throws for the 74-72 win. 

The Wildcats trailed Iowa for much of the game, including a 13-point lead with 16:53 left in the second half.  K-State used a 24-10 run over the next 11 minutes to take its first lead at 53-52 on a lay-up by Jamar Samuels with 5:12 remaining.  The team traded the lead for the rest of the game, including six ties, until Iowa’s Cyrus Tate hit a running lay-up at the buzzer for the two-point win.

Kansas State was down eight points with 14:43 left against Oregon before cutting it to a single-point with 2:48 remaining.  However, the Wildcats could get no closer as the Ducks’ Tajuan Porter capped his 28-point effort with four straight free throws in last 22 seconds.

Explosive Offense

Kansas State has shown the ability to score early and often, as the Wildcats have totaled 623 points in their first eight games, average of nearly 78 points per game.  The team has scored 70 or more points in six of eight games, including three consecutive contests to start the year.  The 96 points scored against Florida A&M on Nov. 14 tied three other teams for the fifth-most in an opener and most since 1991.

The 623 points rank as the second-most through eight games in the last 15 years at Kansas State, trailing just the 1997-98 (676) squad.  The team has scored 80 or more points in four of the their first eight games for just the sixth time in its history, including the 1956-57, 1976-77, 1981-82, 1991-92 and 1997-98 seasons. 

Since Frank Martin’s arrival in 2007, K-State has shown the ability to score points, totaling two of the most prolific scoring teams in school history.  Last year, the Wildcats set the school mark with 2,574 points, while also posting the second-most field goals attempted (2067) and the third-most field goals (916) and 3-point field goals made (210) as well as the third-highest scoring average (78.0).  The 2,467 points in 2006-07 rank as the fourth-most in school history.

Diverse Offense

Unlike last season when consensus All-American Michael Beasley paced the squad at 26.2 points per game, the 2008-09 team has shown a lot more diversity with its scoring output thus far. 

Through eight games, 12 of the 13 players that have seen action have tallied at least two points with eight totaling double-digit points.  Three players are averaging in double figures led by sophomore guard Jacob Pullen’s 15.0 points per game.  Junior Denis Clemente (12.4 ppg.) and redshirt freshman Jamar Samuels (10.5 ppg.) are averaging 10.0 points or more per game, while three others - sophomore Dominique Sutton (9.4 ppg), senior Darren Kent (8.6 ppg) and sophomore Fred Brown (8.3 ppg.) - are averaging eight or more points. 

Since statistics became available during the 1950-51 season, there has been just six teams to have four players average in double figures with the last coming in 2004-05.  Just one team - the 1955-56 squad - has had six players average eight or more points in a season. 

There has already been four different leading scorers in eight games.  Brown, Clemente and Pullen are the only players to repeat as leading scorer, as Brown had a team-high 21 points against SE Missouri State on Nov. 16 then tied Sutton with 14 points each against Emporia State on Nov. 22.  Clemente led the squad with 19 points against Florida A&M on Nov. 14 then again with 16 points against Cleveland State on Nov. 22.  He also had a team-high 19 points against Oregon.  Pullen has paced the team with three 20+ scoring games in the last four games, including a career-best 26 against Oakland.  It marked the first time he has scored 20 or more points in three straight games. 

In all, there have been 29 double-digit scoring games thus far with Samuels doing it a team-best six times in eight games.

Rebounding Still a Strength

Most critics wondered how Kansas State would replace two of the best Big 12 rebounders - Michael Beasley and Bill Walker - after the duo helped the program average 41.3 rebounds a year ago.  The duo plus departed seniors Clent Stewart and Blake Young averaged over 25 boards per game.  Despite their absence, rebounding still seems to be a strength with 11 players averaging at least one board per game.

Through eight games, K-State is averaging 39.5 rebounds, including a Big 12-best 17.1 on the offensive end, with five players averaging four or more boards per game.  Two players - Ron Anderson and Darren Kent - have grabbed double-digit rebounds four times with Anderson and Dominique Sutton averaging a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game.  Kent has posted two double-doubles with 15 points and 12 rebounds against SE Missouri State on Nov. 16 and 14 points and 10 rebounds against Cleveland State on Nov. 22, while Anderson has one with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Emporia State on Nov. 19.


Pressure is the Key

The core of Frank Martin’s coaching philosophy is pressure, whether its on the offensive or defensive end of the floor.  His theory is the more pressure you apply on a team, the more difficult you make it for your opponent.  In other words, pressure makes a team breakdown.

Pressure has been a big key for the Wildcats so far, as the team has scored 179 points (29 percent of their season total of 623 points) off 157 opponent turnovers.  The squad has also outscored its opponents 95-47 on fast-break opportunities.

outscored Florida A&M, 23-5, in points off turnovers then followed it up by turning 21 SE Missouri State turnovers into 26 points.  The Wildcats outscored Emporia State, 30-6, in points off turnovers, while forcing the Hornets into 26 turnovers.  The team scored 17 points off 16 Cleveland State miscues and 27 points off 22 Oakland turnovers.  The squad collected a season-best 26 points off turnovers against Kentucky at the Las Vegas Invitational, while forcing an opponent-high 31 turnovers.  The Wildcats scored just 10 points off 11 Iowa turnovers in the tournament finale.  In all, K-State has forced four of eight opponents into 20 or more turnovers.

The Wildcats are averaging 7.9 steals per contest with 11 players grabbing at least one led by Jacob Pullen’s team-high 16 steals.  Dominique Sutton is second with 13 steals, while Darren Kent and sophomore Chris Merriewether are third with six thefts apiece.

Dynamic Duo

After dominating the paint a year ago with the likes of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, Kansas State’s strength has shifted to the backcourt where the Wildcats start two of the best at their positions in junior Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen.

The duo, which has started all eight games, have combined for 219 points on 37.5 percent shooting (75-of-200), including 32.6 percent from 3-point range (31-of-95), with 50 of the team’s 111 assists.  Pullen ranks first on the team in scoring at 15.0 points per game on 35.4 percent shooting with team-highs in field goals made (40), 3-point field goals made (19), assists (29) and steals (16).  Clemente is second in scoring at 12.4 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting and assists (21), while is first in free throw shooting (81.0) and tied for second in 3-point field goals (12).

Ironically, the two have scored in double figures four times in the same game with a combined 36 points against Florida A&M on Nov. 14, 31 against both Cleveland State on Nov. 22 and Kentucky on Nov. 28 and 45 against Oakland on Nov. 25.  Clemente has paced the team in scoring three times, including a season-best 19 points against Florida A&M and Oregon, while Pullen has led the team in scoring in three of the last four games with consecutive 20-point games.

Samuels an Impact Off Bench

An unknown but talented player, redshirt freshman forward Jamar Samuels has become an impact player off the bench for the Wildcats.  Despite not starting one game, he is third in scoring at 10.5 points on a team-high 57.7 percent shooting (30-of-52) with 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in 22.4 minutes per game.  Samuels is the only player to score in double figures in six of the first eight games with a season-high 16 points against SE Missouri State.

Samuels has also made improvements from the free throw line, where he connected on 78.3 percent (18-of-23) in the last five games.  He started the season hitting just 31.5 percent (6-of-19) from the stripe.   

The native of Washington, D.C., Samuels was redshirt a year ago after joining the squad after the semester break on Dec. 26.  He originally signed with the program out of The Patterson (N.C.) School in the spring of 2007, but wasn’t clear by the NCAA until December.  The 19-year-old actually had one year of high school eligibility remaining, but opted to finish his requirements and head to college early.     

Sutton Steals the Show

After getting a late start to his time at K-State, sophomore Dominique Sutton has become an all-around factor for the Wildcats this season.  He ranks second on the squad in both minutes (25.0) and steals (1.6 spg.), while he is tied with Ron Anderson for led in rebounds (5.9 rpg.) and is fourth in scoring at 9.4 points per game.  Sutton nearly collected his first career double-double in the win over Oakland with nine points and nine rebounds.  He has scored in double figures four times, including a career-best 15 against Kentucky, and has grabbed eight or more rebounds three times so far.

Colon a Force in the Middle

A starter down low in the post, junior Luis Colon is starting to come into his own this season.   He is averaging 5.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting so far with 4.6 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game.  His 43 points are nearly half his entire total from his first two seasons, while his 37 rebounds are more than his entire total from 2007-08.  In the last three games, he has been even more impressive, averaging 6.5 points on 64.7 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game.  He eclipsed his career-high with 12 points against Oakland, while he grabbed a career-best nine rebounds against Iowa.

Kent Stepping up as a Senior

One of the bright spots for the Wildcats this season has been the play of senior forward Darren Kent.  Kent, the team’s only senior, has been a force on the boards, ranking second with 5.8 rebounds per game.  He is also averaging 8.6 points on 44 percent shooting (22-of-50) to go with 1.1 assists and 0.8 steals in 19.8 minutes per game.  Kent, who entered the season averaging 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds in his career, has totaled double-doubles in two games, including career-highs in both points (15) and rebounds (12) against SE Missouri State on Nov. 16.  He paced the team with 10 rebounds in the win against Cleveland State on Nov. 22 to go with 14 points.

Southern Miss Update

Southern Miss enters Thursday’s contest with a 4-3 record after dropping its second straight contest by single digits in a 60-58 loss at New Mexico on Saturday.  It was the Golden Eagles’ third loss in the last five games by a grand total of 15 points, which included a 10-point loss to nationally-ranked Miami (Fla.) (60-70) at the Paradise Jam on Nov. 21 and a three-point overtime setback to South Alabama (73-76) at home on Dec. 2.  The team opened the season with back-to-back wins over Loyola (La.) (75-51) and Alabama State (74-61) before dropping the contest to the Hurricanes.  The team finished the Paradise Jam with wins over LaSalle (76-72) and Iona (64-63).  

The Golden Eagles are averaging 68.6 points through seven games on 42 percent shooting, including 32.1 percent from 3-point range, with 36.6 rebounds, 10.9 assists, 5.4 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. 

USM is led by junior guard Jeremy Wise, who paces the team in scoring (20.6 ppg.), 3-point field goals (11), assists (29) and steals (12).  Wise has also connected on a team-best 83.9 percent (47-of-56) from the free throw line.  Sophomore R.L. Horton, who is coming off a 27-point outing against New Mexico, is second in scoring at 12.3 points per game, while senior Courtney Beasley averages 11.7 points to go with a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game.  In all, five players are averaging six or more points per contest.

Southern Miss returns nine lettermen, including four starters, from a team that finished the 2007-08 season with an 19-14 overall record and 9-7 mark in Conference USA play.  The team has won 39 games in each of the past two seasons.

The Eagles are led by fifth-year head coach Larry Eustachy, who has a 64-66 record since taking over the helm on March 25, 2004.  The former head coach at Iowa State, Eustachy has a 324-211 overall record in 18 years as a college head coach.  He has been the head coach at four different schools, including Idaho and Utah State.  He has a 6-4 record all-time against Kansas State.

Series Information

K-State and Southern Miss have met five times in their histories with the Golden Eagles holding a 3-2 edge.  The two teams first met in 1987 with the first of a home-and-home series with USM earning a 71-69 in Manhattan on Dec. 17, 1987 then again in 1988 by a score of 91-89 in overtime at home in Hattiesburg on Jan. 11.

The teams have met once previously in Kansas City, Mo., with the Wildcats earning its first victory in the series by a score of 70-68 in the BMA Holiday Classic at Kemper Arena on Dec. 28, 1992.

The two squads last played in 1993 when they split a home-and-home series.  The Wildcats lost their last opener to the Eagles, 74-60, on Nov. 27 before earning an 84-78 victory in Hattiesburg on Dec. 30.

12-17-87    USM 71-69         Manhattan

 1-11-88    USM 91-89 (OT)     Hattiesburg

12-28-91    K-State 70-68     Kansas City

11-27-93    USM 74-60         Manhattan

12-30-93    K-State 84-78     Hattiesburg

Recruiting Class Praised

The four-man recruiting class that Kansas State pulled down on Nov. 12 has been rated among the best in the country.  The class, which includes ESPNU100 prospect and power forward Wally Judge, has been rated the 17th-best class by ESPN Scouts, Inc., as well as 21st- best class by Rivals.com.  The quartet includes Judge, fellow high school teammate Rodney McGruder, Dallas (Texas) point guard Nick Russell and prep school forward Jordan Henriquez. 

Young Cats

Kansas State enters the 2008-09 season with one its youngest teams in recent history, as senior forward Darren Kent is the lone senior on a roster of 15 players.  When you factor in that four of the six juniors are either transfers from another Division I school or a junior college, the Wildcats are one of the youngest teams in its history. 

Dating back to the 1981-82 season, there has been just one team - the 1983-84 squad which had no seniors - with fewer seniors on its roster.  The 1996-97 also had just one senior on its roster.

Martin Inks Stellar Class

Kansas State head coach Frank Martin announced the signing of four high school seniors to National Letters of Intent on the second day of the fall signing period on Nov. 13.

The four-man recruiting class, which was ranked 16th nationally by ESPN Scouts, Inc. and 21st by Rivals.com, includes prep school standout Jordan Henriquez (Winchendon [Mass.] School/Port Chester, N.Y.) and high school seniors Wally Judge (Arlington (Fla.) Country Day/Washington, D.C.), Rodney McGruder (Arlington (Fla.) Country Day/Washington, D.C.) and Nick Russell (Grace Preparatory Academy/Arlington, Texas).

The headliner of this class, Wally Judge is a 6-foot-9, 220-pound power forward originally from Washington, D.C., who is entering his second year at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla.  Considered one of the top power forwards in the high school ranks, Judge was rated as a top 25 recruit by several recruiting services, including the No. 17 prospect by ESPN Scouts, Inc. and No. 23 prospect in the Rivals150 by Rivals.com.  He was also rated as an ESPNU Top 100 recruit.  In addition, he is ranked among the top-10 at his position, including No. 6 by ESPN Scouts, Inc. and No. 9 by Rivals.com.   

Judge is in his second year at Florida powerhouse, Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, where he helped the Apaches to their fourth consecutive Class 2A state title with a 24-6 record in 2007-08.   Judge averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds and was named second team Class 2A All-State by the Florida Sports Writers Association.

A teammate of Judge at Arlington Country Day, Rodney McGruder is considered one of the best shooting guards in the country.  The 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard is rated among the top players in the country, including the No. 89 overall prospect by ESPN Scouts, Inc. and No. 91 prospect in the Rivals150 by Rivals.com.  McGruder is also ranked among the top-35 at the position by a number of outlets, including No. 23 by Rivals.com and No. 31 by ESPN Scouts, Inc. 

McGruder transferred to Arlington Country Day in the off-season from Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C.  As a junior, he averaged 21.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.1 steals in leading the Lions to a 16-10 overall record and an appearance in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) semifinals in 2007-08.  He was named to the Washington Post All-Met first team. 

One of the top point guard prospects in the country, Nick Russell comes to K-State from Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington, Texas.  The 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard is rated among the top players in the country, including the No. 89 overall prospect by ESPN Scouts, Inc. and No. 114 prospect in the Rivals150 by Rivals.com.  Russell is also ranked among the top-40 at his position by a number of outlets, including No. 20 by Rivals.com and No. 36 by ESPN Scouts, Inc.  In addition, he is rated the No. 4 player in the state of Texas for the Class of 2009 by Texashoops.com.

Russell helped Grace Prep to a 26-12 overall record, including a 7-3 mark in league play, as a junior in 2006-07.  He helped the Lions to a runner-up finish at the TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parachial Schools) Class 5A state tournament, where they lost to Midland Christian, 74-60.  Russell averaged 23 points, six assists and five rebounds as a junior.  He was named first team TAPPS Class 5A all-state as well as co-most valuable player of the District 1-5A and first team all-district. 

Jordan Henriquez comes to Kansas State from The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass., where he is playing a postgraduate year in 2008-09.  The 6-foot-11, 220-pound center from New Rochelle, N.Y. signed with the Wildcats this past May after finishing his career at Port Chester High School in Port Chester, N.Y.  As a senior, he led the team to an 18-6 record and an 8-0 mark in league play en route to a runner-up finish at the Section I Championship.  In averaging a team-best 15.3 points, Henriquez scored in double figures in 21 of 22 games in 2007-08, including six 20-point contests. 

The recruiting class will join a loaded Kansas State squad in 2009-10, as the Wildcats will return all but one player.  They will be joined by junior forward Curtis Kelly, who is sitting out the 2008-09 season after transferring from University of Connecticut this past summer.