K-State faces USC in Las Vegas

Game 12

Kansas State (8-3) vs. USC (9-2)

Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Holiday Classic

Friday, Dec. 22, 2006

Orleans Arena (8,500) in Las Vegas, Nev.


Game Information:

Tipoff: 7:07 p.m. Central

Series: K-State leads 2-1
(First meeting since 1975)

TV: Fox Sports Midwest
(Available only in Kansas City and state of Kansas)

Satellite Channels: DirecTV 648, Dish Network 452

Talent: Ben Boyle (Play-by-Play) and Stan Weber (Analyst)

Radio: K-State Sports Network (31 affiliates), Yahoo! Radio

Talent: Wyatt Thompson (Play-by-Play) and Matt Walters (Analyst)


Kansas State travels to Vegas to face USC in Holiday Classic Friday

Kansas State (8-3) hits the road for the final time in 2006, as the Wildcats meet Pac-10 foe USC (9-2) in the semifinals of the Findley Toyota Las Vegas Holiday Classic on Friday, Dec. 22 at the Orleans Arena at 7:07 p.m. CT.   The team will conclude the tournament on Saturday, Dec. 23 with a match-up against either No. 8/8 Wichita State (9-0) or New Mexico (8-2) at either 7 or 9:30 p.m. CT.

The Wildcats will be participating in its first in-season tournament since playing in the Paradise Jam in November 2002, while the squad will be making its first visit to Las Vegas in more than 20 years since the program played in the Runnin Rebel Classic on Dec. 27-28, 1984.

The game will be televised throughout the state and the Kansas City area by Fox Sports Midwest with Ben Boyle (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (color) calling the action.  The audio broadcast of the game can also be heard on the 31-station K-State Sports Network (or via the internet at http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaab/teams/kab) with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Matt Walters (color) on the call. 

K-State looks to continue the momentum gained during its current four-game winning streak, in which, the team has been averaging 84.2 points on 53.8 percent shooting, while holding its opponents to just 63.2 points on 37.6 percent from the field.  It marks the first time since December 1988 that the Wildcats have connected on 50 percent or better from the field in four consecutive contests.

Noting the Maryland-Eastern Shore game

*Kansas State is now 1-0 all-time against Maryland-Eastern Shore and improved to 13-0 all-time against teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference... Head coach Bob Huggins moved to 3-0 all-time against the Hawks.

*Kansas State shot 50.9 percent (29-of-57) in the game and shot better than 50 percent for the fourth consecutive contest... The last time the Wildcats shot 50 percent or better in four straight games was during the 1988-89 season.

*K-State surpassed 75 points for the fifth consecutive game after dropping 79 against Maryland-Eastern Shore... The last time the Wildcats scored 75 or more points in five straight contests was games one through five from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6 of the 1976-77 season.

*Kansas State’s first five field goals were scored by five different players... In all, 12 Wildcats scored in the contest... The squad scored a season-high 42 points off the bench, including senior forward Cartier Martin’s game-high 23 points... K-State scored 37 points off an opponent season-high 32 turnovers.

*The Wildcats led 46-23 at the half after shooting 52 percent (15-of-290 and forcing 21 turnovers in the first half... The team trailed by four in the opening minutes but took their first lead of the game at 16:35 after freshman center Jason Bennett’s jump hook made it 6-5... K-State led 19-11 after the first 10 minutes but closed the first half on a 27-12 run to push the lead to 23 at the break.


*Senior forward Cartier Martin reached double figures for the ninth consecutive game and the 56th time in his career with a game-high 23 points... He has now scored 20 or more points in 19 games in his career, including four this season... Martin also paced the squad in rebounds (8) and assists (4).                


*Junior forward David Hoskins scored in double figures for the eighth time this season and 28th time overall with 16 points... He has also scored in double figures in four games in a row... Freshman forward Bill Walker added 11 points in just his second collegiate game.


The Book on USC

USC enters Friday’s semifinal contest with a 9-2 record after posting its fourth straight win with an 83-53 victory over Longwood in the second round of the tournament on Tuesday.  The Trojans used impressive first half shooting to post the decisive 30-point win over the Lancers, running out to a 44-23 halftime lead after connecting on an astounding 73.1 percent of its field goals.  Junior guard Nick Young and senior guard Lodrick Stewart paced three players in double figures with game-high 17 points, while freshman forward Taj Gibson collected a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Southern California
is averaging 73.0 points on 47.6 percent shooting with 40.4 rebounds and have three players averaging in double figures.  Senior Lodrick Stewart and junior Nick Young pace the squad in scoring at 16.0 points per game, while freshman Taj Gibson adds 12.8 points per game on a team-best 60.0 percent shooting.  Gibson also averages a double-double with a team-best 10. 1 rebounds to go with 1.8 blocks.  Freshman point guard Daniel Hackett paces the club with 3.9 assists per game, while averaging 5.8 points. 

No stranger to Kansas State from his days at Iowa State, head coach Tim Floyd has a 269-145 record in his 14th season as a head coach, including a 26-15 mark in his second season at USC.  He has been a head coach at Idaho (1987-89), New Orleans (1989-94) and Iowa State (1995-98), while he also served two stints in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls (1998-2002) and New Orleans Hornets (2003-04).  He was the college roommate of former Wildcat coach Jim Wooldridge (2000-06) during their days at Louisiana Tech and served as the featured speaker at the his coaching clinic in October 2004.

Series versus USC

This will be the fourth all-time meeting between Kansas State and Southern California in a series that dates back to 1960.  The Wildcats hold a slight 2-1 edge in the series with all three previous match-ups also occuring in the month of December.  K-State won the first two meetings in a home-and-home setting, earning a 65-57 win in Los Angeles on Dec. 10, 1960 followed by a 82-58 victory on Dec. 14, 1963.  The Trojans then got their revenge with a 81-80 win in the championship game of the Vanderbilt Classic in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 6, 1975.  Head coach Bob Huggins is 2-0 all-time against USC.  He and Tim Floyd have met just once in their respective careers with Floyd’s 18th-ranked Iowa State squad earning a 67-66 win over Huggins and his 10th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats in the second round of the 1997 NCAA Midwest Regional.

Huggins No Stranger To Vegas

Kansas State head coach Bob Huggins is no stranger to Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.  His Cincinnati teams played tournament games in Vegas on four occasions in his career - the Las Vegas Shootout in 1998-99 and 2000-01 as well as the Las Vegas Classic in 2001-02 and 2004-05.  The Bearcats also played in the Classic last season, in which the team captured the title with a win over eventual Final Four participant LSU with his former assistant coach Andy Kennedy at the helm.  Huggins also has a long-standing relationship with the organizers of the current tournament, which includes playing in the sponsored Puerto Rico Holiday Classic in 1996-97 and 2000-01, a precursor to the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.


Offense Taking Flight

After struggling much of the season on the offensive end, Kansas State is beginning to find its rhythm.  The Wildcats have averaged 84.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting, including 37.4 percent from 3-point range, in the last five contests after averaging just 66.0 points on 36.3 percent shooting, including just 29.0 percent from beyond the arc, in the first six games.  The 420 points scored during the five-game stretch are the most by a K-State squad since totaling 466 points against Texas-San Antonio, Missouri-Rolla, Delaware State, Arkansas and Alabama State to open the 1991-92 season.  It also marked the first time since the 1990-91 season that the Wildcats have scored 80 or more points in four consecutive games.  In doing so, the squad has shot 50 percent or better in seven of their last 10 halves of basketball, including 60 percent or better in three of the last eight halves. 


Against Cleveland State on Dec. 9, Kansas State shot a season-high 61.5 percent from the field and topped the 90-point barrier for the second time this season.  It marked the first time in nearly two seasons that the squad shot 60 percent or better from the field since shooting 62.8 percent (27-of-43) against Nebraska on Feb. 4, 2004.


Lift From The Bench

Kansas State has gotten a nice lift from its bench this season with an average of 25.2 points coming from its reserves this season.  The impact has been even more telling in the last five contests, where the Wildcats have averaged 35.8 points off the bench and have outscored Colorado State, Cleveland State, North Dakota State, Kennesaw State and UMES by a 179-77 margin.  The streak came on the heels of being outscored 67-47 off the bench in the previous three games against New Mexico, Coppin State and California


The most telling aspect of the recent bench play has been its diversity.  The team has gotten significant scoring from eight players, while one player - senior Akeem Wright - earned a starting job after averaing 10.0 points from the  bench against Colorado State and Cleveland State.  Senior Serge Afeli collected a career-high 14 points against Colorado State on Dec. 2, while junior Clent Stewart and Wright added nine and seven points, respectively.  Wright then posted a season-high 13 points against Cleveland State on Dec. 5, while freshmen Jason Bennett and Luis Colon chipped in 11 and nine points, respectively.  In his first reserve play in more than two years, senior Cartier Martin came off the bench to score 18 points against NDSU, while senior Jermaine Maybank added nine points on a perfect shooting performance.   Martin, who again starred off the bench against UMES with 23 points, has averaged 20.5 points on 48.4 percent shooting in two reserve roles this season.         


Road Reversal

After struggling for most of the past five seasons on the road, Kansas State has taken a step forward this season with victories in two of the first five non-conference road contests.  The Wildcats were a dismal 1-12 in non-conference road games heading into the 2005-06 season and now the team has doubled that total in just five games this season.  It also marks the first time since the 1997-98 season that the program has won two non-conference road tilts.  K-State snapped a five-game losing streak in a 55-41 win over Rutgers on Nov. 15.  It was the program’s first non-league road victory since a 79-66 win over Wichita State on Dec. 14, 2002 and the first in a true’ (on an opponent’s home court) road opener since a 71-50 win over UMKC on Dec. 3, 1997.       


Impressive Debut

Sunday’s game marked the debut of highly-touted freshman forward Bill Walker and he did not disappoint.  With just two practices under his belt, he posted 15 points on 6-of-10 field goals against Kennesaw State on Dec. 17 with four rebounds and one assist in 22 minutes of action.  It was the most points by a true freshman in his debut since Marques Hayden scored 20 points against BYU on Nov. 23, 2002.  After another day of practice, he came back on Tuesday to score 11 points with two steals against Maryland-Eastern Shore.  Walker, who signed a financial aid agreement with the university on Nov. 3, was only able to join the squad on Dec. 16, the first day that a mid-year athlete can become eligible for athletic aid, practice and competition at K-State.  He joins the program after exhausting his athletic eligibility at North College Hill High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he guided the Trojans to back-to-back Division III state titles.  He enrolled in an accelerated program through North College Hill and received his diploma this fall.    

A 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward from Huntington, W. Va., Walker is one of the most highly-regarded high school recruits to ever join the Kansas State program.  A three-year starter at North College Hill, he helped the school to a 26-1 overall record, the state title and a No. 3 final ranking in the USA Today Super 25 High School rankings as a junior in 2005-06.  He averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds en route to earning recognition to the Parade magazine All-America Boys’ Basketball second team.  He was also named to the USA Today All-USA High School Boys’ Basketball All-Junior team and to the EA Sports High School Boys’ Basketball First Team.  He was named the most valuable player of the 2006 Ohio Division III state tournament, as he averaged 22.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game en route to helping the Trojans to the title. 


Walker will wear No. 12 at Kansas State, which was also worn by Wildcat legends Mike Evans (1974-78) and Lon Kruger (1971-74).  Both Evans and Kruger had their jerseys retired last year.

Hoskins Emerging As A Leader

One of the biggest reasons for Kansas State’s current win streak has been due to the emergence of junior forward David Hoskins.  He has averaged 16.0 points in the last four games on 63.6 percent shooting (21-of-33) with 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals.  Hoskins has scored in double figures and has shot 60 percent or better in each of those contests.  The streak began with a 17-point effort on 6-of-9 shooting against Cleveland State on Dec. 5 and continued with 14 points against North Dakota State on Dec. 9.  Hoskins continued his impressive play in the first two rounds of the tournament with 17 points on 6-of-9 field goals against Kennesaw State on Dec. 17 and 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 19.  Hoskins’ play of late is in stark contrast to that of his play in the previous four games against New Mexico, Coppin State, California and Colorado State, where he averaged just 4.8 points on 31.8 percent shooting (7-of-22) as the Wildcats posted a 1-4 record.

The Martin of Old

After averaging just 5.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the first two games, senior forward Cartier Martin has seemed to return to his old shooting touch that made him a second team All-Big 12 selection a year ago.  He has averaged 18.1 points in the last nine games on 46.8 percent shooting (58-of-124), including 40.4 percent from 3-point range, to bring his season average to a team-best 15.8 points.  Martin has scored in double figures in each game during that stretch, including a career-high 28 points on a career-best 10-of-19 field goals against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 18.  He continued his double-digit scoring in each of the last eight games, including back-to-back 21-point outputs against Colorado State and Cleveland State and a 23-point effort against Maryland-Eastern Shore.  The UMES game marked the 19th time in his career he has posted 20 or more points, including the fourth time this year.  Against Coppin State on Nov. 25, Martin became the 19th player and the first in almost 15 years to score 1,000 career points.  After struggling the first 33 minutes of the game, he caught fire in the last seven minutes against the Eagles to score 11 points on 3-of-3 field goals (all 3-pointers).


Martin Joins 1,000-Point Club

Senior forward Cartier Martin joined an elite fraternity at Kansas State in the win over Coppin State on Nov. 25, as he became the 19th player in school history and the first in the Big 12 era to score 1,000 career points.  The Houston, Texas, native hit the milestone at the 6:48 mark of the second half against the Eagles with a 3-pointer from the left corner to beat the shot clock.  It was the first of 11 points scored by the senior in the last seven minutes of the game.  Martin became the first Wildcat to eclipse the 1,000-point since ince Askia Jones did it during the 1992-93 season. 


He enters Friday’s game against USC with 1,121 career points, which now ranks 11th in school history, and needs just 64 points to top All-American and jersey retiree Jack Parr (1,184; 1955-58) and crack the school’s top-10.  A second team All-Big 12 performer by numerous outlets last season, Martin became the third player since 1990-91 to top 500 points in a single-season, while his 18.0 scoring average was the highest by a Wildcat since Askia Jones averaged 22.1 points in 1993-94.  He recordede his 19th 20-point contest against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 19 and now needs just four more such efforts to displace former teammate Jeremiah Massey (22; 2004-05) for 10th place on the school’s career list.  In addition to his impressive scoring touch, Martin has been incredibly durable for the Wildcats, fighting through countless injuries to play in 81 straight games dating back to the Kansas game on Jan. 28, 2004.


Wright Stuff

Senior guard Akeem Wright has been another key player during the Wildcats’ current four-game winning streak.  The Philadelphia, Pa., native has averaged 9.0 points on 60.9 percent shooting (14-of-23), including 50.0 percent from 3-point range (2-of-4), in that span to go along with 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 blocks in 25.8 minutes per game.  Wright, who scored a season-high 13 points on 5-of-7 field goals against Cleveland State on Dec. 5, has eclipsed his season average (7.5 ppg.) in three of the last four contests.


Harris Stepping Up His Game

Bob Huggins has always been a coach that has gotten the most out of his talent and senior guard Lance Harris has been a prime example of that influence.  Harris has averaged 11.9 points on 48.0 percent shooting, including a team-best 40.7 percent from 3-point range, this season to go with a 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.7 steals per game.  He paces the squad in both 3-point field goals (22) and 3-point field goal percentage (40.7), while he is third in field goal percentage and rebounding and fourth in scoring.  Harris has scored in double figures in six of the 11 contests, including four of the last seven.  He has also collected three 20-point efforts this year, including 22 against William & Mary on Nov. 11, a career-high 26 against Coppin State on Nov. 25 and 24 against North Dakota State on Dec. 9.  Harris has connected on three or more 3-point field goals in five of 11 games.


Harris has been even more impressive in the last seven games, where he is averaging 13.0 points on 54.8 percent shooting (34-of-62), including 45.5 percent from 3-point range (15-of-33) with 2.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game.  He has topped double figures in four of the last seven contests, including a pair of 20-point efforts.  Harris has shot 55 percent or better from the field in four of those games, including connecting on a career-best 80 percent (8-of-10) against North Dakota State on Dec. 9.  He has also hit on at least two 3-point field goals in four of those games, including five against both Coppin State and NDSU, while he has shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc with a career-high 83.3 percent against NDSU.    

Young Undergoes Successful Knee Surgery

Junior guard Blake Young underwent successful knee surgery on Dec. 11 at Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan, Kan.  He suffered a partial tear of the medial meniscus in his right knee during the Wildcats’ scrimmage in late October.  With no risk of further damage, Young had been playing with the injury throughout the first nine games.  He is making a slow return to the court, playing just a combined 13 minutes in the past two games.


Young has made an immediate impact for the Wildcats this season after transferring from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College, where he was an honorable mention All-American as a sophomore in 2005-06.  The Orlando, Fla., native is averaging 7.5 points, a team-best 3.3 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 24.5 minutes per game this season.  After ranking third in NJCAA in scoring at 23.2 points as a sophomore at Daytona Beach, Young displayed his offensive potential with a big scoring effort against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 21 with a season-high 24 points on 6-of-10 field goals, including 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc, to go with four assists, two steals and one block.   He has paced the Wildcats in assists in five of 11 games this season, including dishing at least four assists in all but five contests.  Young posted a season-high six assists against Rutgers on Nov. 15. 


Block Party

At no surprise, freshman center Jason Bennett, the tallest player in school history at 7-foot-3, has made an immediate impact on the defensive end of the court with a freshman-school record 27 blocked shots this season, including a season record-tying six in a loss at California on Nov. 29.  He tied the mark set first by Tony Kitt against Kansas on March 6, 1999 and then accomplished by Dramane Diarra against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26, 2005. 


With his three-block effort against Kennesaw State, Bennett broke the freshman mark for blocks in a season (24) set by Shawn Rhodes in 1995-96 and now is just 33 away from eclipsing the school record of 59 set by Gerald Eaker in 1995-96.  He has recorded a blocked shot in eight of 11 games this year, while his 2.5 per game average ranks him second in the Big 12.  Bennett’s four blocks against William & Mary were the most since Dramane Diarra had his school-tying six against S. F. Austin, while it was the most by a true freshman since Travis Canby registered four against Kansas on Feb. 27, 2002.

Through 11 games, Kansas State is averaging 5.27 blocked shots per game, including eight-block performances against William & Mary on Nov. 11 and Cleveland State on Dec. 5. The eight blocks are the most by a Wildcat team since blocking nine shots against Longwood on Dec. 5, 2005.   The Wildcats, whose block average is fourth in the Big 12, have recorded three or more blocks in 10 of their 11 games, including six or more on seven occasions.

Getting Defensive

Kansas State has demonstrated trademark Bob Huggins’ defensive basketball in posting an 8-3 record to start the season.  The Wildcats rank among the top 5 in four defensive categories in the Big 12, including second in rebounding (40.0), third in 3-point percentage defense (31.4) and offensive rebounds (14.82), fourth in blocked shots (5.27) and fifth in field goal percentage defense (39.3) and defensive rebounds (25.18).  The squad is seventh in scoring defense (66.4).  The team has held eight of its first 11 opponents to 45 percent or less shooting, while grabbing an average of 40.0 rebounds.


After giving up an average of 81 points in back-to-back losses to California and Colorado State, the Wildcats have clamped down on defense during its current four-game winning streak.  The team has held its opponents to just 63.2 points on 37.6 percent shooting (89-of-237), including just 21.7 percent from 3-point range (15-of-69), during the stretch.  In addition, K-State has forced an average of 21.3 turnovers and tallied an average of 8.3 steals during its four-game winning streak.  The team forced 32 turnovers against UMES, just five short of the school record of 37 set by Vanderbilt in December 1969. 


In the win over Rutgers, the Wildcats were even more impressive on defense.  In addition to holding its second straight opponent to 60 points or less and to below 40 percent shooting from the field, the team held the Scarlet Knight to a meager 41 points on just nine field goals and 19.1 percent shooting.  The nine field goals allowed are the fewest since the Wildcats allowed Washburn a school-record low seven in a 23-15 K-State win on Dec. 6, 1940, while the 41 points are the fewest since Arkansas-Pine Bluff managed just 39 on Dec. 4, 2002.  It was the fewest points allowed an opponent on their own floor since the introduction of the shot clock in 1986-87 and fewest since a 41-39 win over Nebraska in Lincoln on March 6, 1984.     


Up Next: New Mexico (8-2)/Wichita State (9-0)

New Mexico enters Friday’s semifinal contest with an 8-2 record after posting its third straight win with a 76-69 victory over Charleston Southern in the second round of the tournament on Tuesday.  The Lobos are averaging 82.2 points on 49.1 percent shooting with 38.2 rebounds and have two players averaging in double figures.  Junior guard J.R. Giddens paces the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game to go with team-bests in both assists (3.0 apg.) and steals (1.3 spg.), while junior guard Tony Dandridge adds 11.7 points per game on a team-best 58.5 percent shooting.  New Mexico is coached by fifth-year head coach Ritchie McKay, who also served stints at Portland State, Colorado State and Oregon State before coaching the Lobos.  He was hired as Colorado State’s head coach in 1998 by current K-State and former Rams’ athletics director Tim Weiser.  The two teams have already met once this season with the Lobos posting a 78-54 win at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., on Nov. 21.  The Wildcats hold a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.


Eighth-ranked Wichita State enters Friday’s semifinal contest with a perfect 9-0 record after posting a 74-65 victory over Kennesaw State in the second round of the tournament on Tuesday.  The Shockers are averaging 76.0 points on 49.8 percent shooting with 36.3 rebounds and have four players averaging in double figures.  Senior forward Kyle Wilson paces the squad in scoring at 13.0 points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds, while junior P.J. Couisnard adds 12.2 points per game and team-bests 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks.  Head coach Mark Turgeon has a 145-105 record in his ninth season as a head coach, including a 120-76 mark in his seventh season at Wichita State.  K-State holds a 20-11 advantage in the all-time series with WSU.  The two teams have not met since the Wildcats posted a 54-50 win over the Shockers at home on Dec. 10, 2003.