When Kansas State coach Frank Martin’s angry, watch out. That’s a bad sign for the opponent.
The 5-seed Wildcats spent most of Thursday’s 73-68 win in control of 12-seed Utah State. The defense was swarming, shots were falling and they were leading by double-digits. Then things got sloppy and the Aggies had a shot. K-State came through with some late free throws (11 of 14 in the final 1:08) and the win.
And now, they’ll have Martin – one of the game’s angriest coaches – on them about nearly throwing away a win.
“Obviously, happy with the win, but fortunate to have gotten one,” Martin said afterward. “I’m real proud of the way we played in the first half, but after our season and all of our growth, a little disappointing that we reverted in the second half to the mistakes we made early in the year. This time of season, you win, you get a chance to win and hopefully we can refocus.”
Frankly, this is ideal for K-State. As Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes, the Wildcats (23-10) are better when Martin is on them to stay focused, hit the boards and defends. This is a team that’s better when it takes on its coach’s persona and plays … mad.
So what’s next? Stopping Wisconsin and its two efficient scorers, Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer. Rest assured, they’ll be mad for it if Martin has his way.
“When we do the things we’re supposed to do, we’re a pretty good basketball team,” Martin told Mellinger. “When we don’t, like in the second half, then we’re vulnerable. … We got no chance against Wisconsin if we can’t play two halves better on Saturday.”
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