MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP)—Frank Martin paced the sideline frowning, screaming at the players on the court, even the ones on the bench.
Exasperated by his young team’s inconsistency, Kansas State’s first-year coach was irritated from the opening tip, a mood that clearly hadn’t subsided by the time he met with the media 20 minutes after the final buzzer.
“We embarrassed the game of basketball, we embarrassed the way basketball should be played, we embarrassed the university, we embarrassed our fans,” Martin said.
And to think, Martin’s team won, but only because of another huge game from freshman Michael Beasley.
Beasley scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half and had 22 rebounds, lifting 22nd-ranked Kansas State out of a sloppy first half to a 77-64 victory over Western Illinois on Saturday night.
“We’ve got to get better,” Martin said. “Three games into this thing and there’s 27 more left. We’ve got to find a way to get better.”
Kansas State (3-0) was ranked in the preseason Top 25 (25th) for the first time since 1975-76, its first ranking of any kind since 1993, and moved up to 22nd based on a pair of wins the first week. But the Wildcats are young, with three freshmen starting, and have been inconsistent even in winning.
Kansas State opened with an easy win over Sacramento State, then struggled for a 10-point victory over Division II Pittsburg State on Sunday, allowing the Gorillas to go on a 15-0 run to start the second half.
The Wildcats had the same kind of trouble with Western Illinois (1-2), a team that’s won only four of its 54 road games in four-plus years under coach Derek Thomas and was picked to finish eighth in the new Summit Conference.
Kansas State struggled in nearly aspect against the Leathernecks, missing wide-open jumpers—4-for-22 from 3-point range—forcing shots inside and making poor decisions at both ends, raising the hackles of their coach with every misstep.
“We know we didn’t play well, so we’re not happy,” Kansas State guard Clent Stewart said. “And if we’re not happy, then we know he’s (Martin) not happy.”
The Wildcats, as expected against a weaker opponent, jumped out to an early 11-point lead, holding the Leathernecks to one field goal in the first five minutes.
Then the mistakes started.
A little sloppy ball handling, a few airballs and some defensive breakdowns, and it wasn’t long before Western Illinois was back in it, pulling within 28-27 on David Dubois’ breakaway layup late in the first half. The Leathernecks also held Kansas State to 35 percent shooting and swarmed Beasley with double and triple teams, keeping him scoreless for the first 17 minutes.
Beasley hit a couple of shots in the closing minutes of the half, including a 3-pointer, and grabbed 10 rebounds, giving the Wildcats a 31-27 halftime lead they probably didn’t deserve. He kept it going after the break, scoring 15 points in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the second half.
“Beasley started inflicting his will,” Thomas said.
Still, Kansas State had a hard time shaking Western Illinois, which seemed to gain confidence the longer the game stayed close.
It wasn’t until the Wildcats picked up the defensive pressure and went on an 11-0 run midway through the second half that they pulled away for their fifth straight 3-0 start to a season.
Beasley has been the main reason Kansas State has pulled out the victories, averaging 30 points and 20 rebounds, including a Big 12 record 24 in his first college game, while shooting 75 percent from the floor.
“I think he’s a top-5 pick,” said Thomas, a former scout for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “I’ve been in the league and I’ve seen what’s coming out, and I think he’s a top-5 pick.”
David Jackson had 12 points and David Nurse and Nikola Bodic had 11 each for Western Illinois, which shot 35 percent and was outrebounded 54-28.