Wildcats Take A Bite Out Of The Sooners

Saturday, March 3rd 2007, 5:18 pm

By: News On 6

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) No offense to the home fans, but Cartier Martin really doesn't want to play in Bramlage Coliseum again.

That would mean a home date in the National Invitation Tournament -- and while Kansas State hasn't been to the postseason since 1998, the Wildcats' senior forward said the Wildcats won't be satisfied with anything less than their first NCAA tournament berth since 1996.

"We're not shooting for the NIT, man," Martin said after scoring a career-high 30 points in Saturday's 72-61 victory over Oklahoma. "I'm certain that I'm not going to play another game here."

If Martin's right, he saved his best for last.

In his first start since Feb. 13 -- he's Kansas State's leading scorer but is used by first-year coach Bob Huggins as a super sub -- Martin hit five 3-pointers and made one key basket after another.

He also had 6-rebounds and a team-high 3-steals, which impressed Huggins as much as Martin's offensive output did.

"If this was November, and you told me that in March I'd be sitting here saying Cartier did a heck of a job defensively, I'd look at you like you had three heads," said Huggins, who suspended Martin in the spring for poor classroom performance and didn't lift the suspension until the start of fall workouts. "But I thought he was really good tonight. That's the best I've ever seen him."

First-year Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel was impressed, too.

"He played like a guy who wasn't going to allow his team to lose," Capel said. "He challenged his guys defensively, was all over the place, rebounding, making shots."

David Hoskins added 14 points and Lance Harris had 10 -- all in the 1st-half -- for the Wildcats, who locked up a first-round bye in the Big 12 Conference tournament. The Wildcats (21-10, 10-6) finished 4th in the conference, their best placing since the Big 12 began play in the 1996-97 season.

The Sooners (15-14, 6-10) lost their sixth straight. Barring an improbable run to the conference tournament title, which carries an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Oklahoma will need an NIT bid to extend its run of 25 straight postseason appearances – the longest active streak in Division I.

"At some point, it's got to sink in that we're at a point in our season right now where if we lose, it's over. That's it," Capel said. "We have about five days to start thinking about those things, start preparing for those things."

The Sooners had only 3-field goals in the final 12 minutes of the 1st-half and trailed by 19 points at the break before mounting two comeback bids in the second period.

"At the beginning, everybody just wasn't on the same page," guard David Godbold said. "We had two or three that knew what we were doing, and the other two were kind of out there. "For us to get out of this losing streak, we're going to have to have all five on the same page."

Tony Crocker scored four points in 2 seconds -- drawing a foul on a made layup and then putting back his missed free throw -- to cap a 9-0 run that got the Sooners within 48-35 with just over 15 minutes to go.

Martin hit two 3-pointers, converted a 3-point play and scored points over the next 5 1/2 minutes, but Kansas State's poor free throw shooting down the stretch helped Oklahoma get back in the game.

The Sooners got within 9-points three times, the last time on Nate Carter's basket with 41.2 seconds to go that made it 70-61, but could get no closer.

The Wildcats shot just 58 percent (15-26) from the line.

Carter and Crocker shared Oklahoma's scoring lead with 14 points each and David Godbold added 12.

Center Longar Longar, Oklahoma's second-leading scorer at 11 points per game, was held to 2-points on 1--5 shooting. Michael Neal, who came in averaging 10.2 points for the Sooners, was held to 4 -- although Austin Johnson did make 2-free throws for Neal after he fell hard in a collision with Hoskins and had to come out of the game for several minutes.

Oklahoma took its last lead, 14-13, on Johnson's basket just over 8-minutes into the game. But the Sooners didn't score again from the field until Carter connected off the glass with 4:13 left in the half, and then went scoreless until Neal's basket in the final seconds before intermission.

Kansas State took advantage of Oklahoma's slump with a 28-6 run
for a 41-20 lead, and was up 41-22 at the break.

Martin hit two 3-pointers and scored 8-points and Harris had 6-points in the run.

"We stepped up and played better defense in the first half, and that carried us," Hoskins said. "When the other team isn't scoring, it is a little easier to run plays and get the momentum on your side."

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