Kansas State's last opportunity to tune up its game before the start of Big 12 play presents itself in the form of a home game with a struggling Savannah State team on Monday. And while many fans are quick to dismiss the Wildcats' non-conference finale as a meaningless formality, Coach Frank Martin and his young crop of players view things differently.
"The good thing about playing Savannah State at home before Big 12 play starts is that it's a chance to turn it around," said K-State senior guard Clent Stewart. "We came out and played badly against Xavier, but now we have the chance to turn everything around before the conference games."
The Tigers, who are 8-12 on the season, present K-State with an ideal opportunity to bounce back from the crushing 103-77 New Year's Eve loss that Stewart spoke of, and Coach Martin's team will have to display tremendous progress in the process. The Wildcats showed their inexperience against the Musketeers, rushing bad shots and being out-rebounded 46-38, a statistical anomaly for K-State, one of the nation's top rebounding squads.
"That's who we are," Martin said of his team's rebounding efforts. "If you look at the games that we haven't played well, look at our rebound numbers. They're bad. We'll work on defending, and we'll work on rebounding. Those are the two things that, in order for us to be good, we have to be good at."
Chances to erase the kind of lackluster performance the Wildcats turned in against Xavier don't get much better than this. Savannah State has been outscored 557-414 in its last eight games and boasts a season record of 8-12. So while the Tigers don't present much of an upset threat, getting a win won't be enough to please Martin come Monday.
Make no mistake, Monday's game is about making progress.
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