MANHATTAN, KAN. – Kansas State’s first two Big 12 Conference games were heartbreakers and sophomores Lance Harris and Cartier Martin weren’t about to endure another.
Harris and Martin made big plays late in the second half, negating an attempted Tigers rally and giving the Wildcats a 74-54 win Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas State (11-3, 1-2) came into Saturday’s game reeling from two conference games that it lost late. Texas Tech’s Curtis Marshall hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to beat the Wildcats 79-76 on Wednesday in Manhattan, Kan. Prior to that, Kansas State lost to Nebraska 95-85 in double overtime.
For Harris, a Hickman graduate, the win had added sweetness. It was his first against his hometown rival.
“It’s really exciting to play against Mizzou, a team that you wanted to grow up to play with,” Harris said. “But now you’re on a different team and you get to play against them.
“I wanted to beat Missouri last year, but it didn’t happen both times. Man, it just feels so good to get this win against Missouri.”
Harris doubled his playing time from last year’s games, playing 24 minutes and finishing with nine points and four rebounds.
He proved particularly clutch late in the second half. With 5:50 left, he hit a jumper that ended Missouri’s 8-0 run.
Harris followed with a left-handed layup after Missouri’s Jason Conley lost the ball at the top of the key. The play got the 11,867 fans on their feet for first time in the game.
“It was a big turning point,” Harris said. “I think we put it in the dirt then.”
Missouri would get back within nine points, but this time Martin stepped up. Driving down the right baseline, Martin went head-to-head with Missouri’s Linas Kleiza. He drew contact, made the basket and was fouled. The play sparked a 13-2 Wildcat run to end the game.
After Martin’s basket, Harris grabbed defensive rebounds on two straight Missouri possessions.
“They got their little run but we kept going,” Martin said.
Martin, who had a team-high 18 points, is stealing a little thunder away from Jeremiah Massey, Kansas State’s leading scorer and senior forward.
Martin is averaging 18.7 points in Kansas State’s first three Big 12 games. When it was mentioned to Martin that he finished with 10 rebounds he was surprised.
“I had 10?” Martin said. “Oh. A double-double, huh? Yeah man, that’s what I’m talking about.”
Martin, who is 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, is one of the bigger guards in Big 12 and plays more like a forward. Having played post in high school, he said it’s not uncomfortable for him to attack the basket or play inside.
Although Massey remains the anchor of Kansas State’s team, coach Jim Wooldridge said the Wildcats need young players like Harris and Martin to assume major roles.
“They’ve got to be owners of their team very early in their career,” Wooldridge said. “Those are two of the kids I’m talking about. The more they own the team, the better off we’re going to be.”