Bob Lutz: Kansas State's big victory will resonate across country
MANHATTAN — The country now has a better idea about Kansas State basketball and I suspect the country is afraid. Very afraid.
The Wildcats not only beat No. 1 Texas on Big Monday at Bramlage Coliseum, they exposed Texas. The Longhorns, I'm sure, had a good opinion of themselves when they came into the game with a 17-0 record. Probably a lot of looking in the mirror for the these guys.
Kansas State doesn't have mirrors, but if the Wildcats did Texas would have been in a rear view.
This game had all the finesse of a tractor pull. The officials let the teams get after it.
This style of game was right up KSU's back alley. In a brawl, I'm taking the Wildcats and their coach Frank Martin, who spent the game working officials, making substitutions, yelling at his players, yelling at the officials, staring holes through his players and chastising. No one is safe from Martin's wrath; I swear I saw him give a dirty look to K-State football coach Bill Snyder, who sits about five rows behind the bench.
In a hard game, Kansas State was markedly harder than Texas, which couldn't make free throws and had no answers inside for Jamar Samuels and Dominique Sutton, who stared into the abyss occupied by Texas' Damion James and Dexter Pittman and came away as survivors.
It was an impressive performance that is sure to continue to vault Kansas State forward in the national polls. The Wildcats had already moved to No. 10, but Monday was their first real exposure nationally.
Most encouraging to Martin — providing, of course, that he ever allows himself to be is encouraged — is that K-State can play better. Guards Jacob Pullen and Dennis Clemente were solid as leaders and passers, but were a combined 4-of-24 shooting.
Yes, folks, K-State beat the previously-unbeaten and No. 1 team in the country with its two best players making 4 of 24 shots.
The best example of K-State's grit came in the second half, after the Cats built a 36-26 halftime lead.
Texas stormed back with the first eight points of the half and pulled ahead 44-43 with 12:02 remaining. The Longhorns looked as if they decided at the half that they were going to match the five Jack Bauers K-State was putting on the court with a quintet of John McClanes from the "Die Hard" movies.
But one of the things we learned Monday is that Jack Bauer can whip John McClane, because K-State dusted itself off and went on an 8-0 run to take a 51-44 lead.
Then it was Texas' turn, again. The Longhorns scored seven in a row to tie things up before K-State decided it once and for all, thanks to an 11-2 spurt and a 62-52 lead with 2:45 remaining.
Samuels and Kelly picked the right night to have season-best performances. They scored, they rebounded, they defended.
I didn't know what to expect from Samuels, who told reporters how exhausted he was after Saturday's 87-81 win in the high altitude of Colorado. I do know I want some of what he was having Monday, because his energy level — which produced 20 points and 13 rebounds — would have allowed him to leap over the Rocky Mountains.
Kelly, a highly-touted transfer from Connecticut, hadn't quite cut it compared to his lofty expectations. All is forgiven, though, because he was a man Monday with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Only one player for Texas, freshman guard Avery Bradley, scored in double figures. He had 11. The Longhorns limped back to Austin with the scars of a 36.8-percent shooting night. It was just as bad at the free-throw line, where Texas made 9 of 22.
The Horns did their best to match K-State's physical play, but there might not be a team in the country that can do so.
The Wildcats were ready for this one. Students — thousands of them — showed up hours before the game, hoping to get into the building. But K-State's players didn't get caught up in the moment and weren't paralyzed by a chance to knock off No. 1.
The Wildcats made Texas scratch and claw for everything, and the Longhorns don't particularly like that style. They can do it, and for a while they were able to match K-State's toughness. But not for 40 minutes.
This was a shot heard around the college basketball world. Today, everybody will be talking about K-State, and rightly so.
Anyone who thought the Wildcats had reached a peak during their one season of Michael Beasley and Bill Walker together is being proven wrong. Martin has built a team with staying power. He has a bunch of players who believe in him, who respect him and who play with just the right amount of fear that if they do something Martin doesn't like, watch out.
The rest of the Big 12 needs to account for K-State, which has reeled off three straight conference wins since losing its opener at Missouri.
I can't imagine it's much fun playing against the Wildcats, especially when they're playing with their Jack Bauer mentality. And that's how they played for 40 minutes against Texas on Big Monday, which happened to be opposite a two-hour episode of "24" on Fox.
I'm not sure which was more brutal.Read Eagle sports columnist Bob Lutz's "Lutz on the Loose" columns periodically at Kansas.com/sports. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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