Kansas State coach Frank Martin feels his young players are progressing. He also knows that his youth doesn't quite compare to the roster Billy Gillispie has been using in his first season at Texas Tech.
Martin's No. 22 Wildcats hit the road Wednesday night looking to extend the Red Raiders' worst Big 12 start in 12 seasons.
Kansas State (14-4, 3-3) bounced back from its first set of back-to-back losses with two wins last week, 84-80 at home over Texas on Wednesday and 66-58 at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Martin likes what he has seen from a team that did not receive a vote in the preseason Top 25.
"We played three true freshman and two sophomores and a walk-on in that (Oklahoma State) game," Martin said. "Our young kids, they are starting to get that enthusiasm and confidence little by little."
That hasn't been the case with Texas Tech (7-11, 0-6), which has lost six straight for its worst conference start since opening 0-9 in 1999-2000. The Red Raiders are last in the Big 12 in turnovers with 17.0 per game as well as in rebounds at 32.2, while ranking near the bottom in points scored (63.3) and allowed (67.2).
"Talk about being young now, holy cow, they might be the youngest team in the country," Martin said. "Going into their last game at home, they had really, really played well."
That last game was one of the Red Raiders' worst defeats, 76-52 to Iowa State. Texas Tech shot 35.1 percent and has failed to reach 40 percent in any conference game.
Gillispie, the former Texas A&M and Kentucky coach, is preaching patience.
"It takes time to learn how to practice like we want to, at the pace we want to," Gillispie said. "When you have 10 new guys, again not using that as an excuse, just as a fact of the matter, it takes a little time."
Texas Tech began 6-0 at home before losing all three Big 12 games at United Spirit Arena by double digits. Martin believes the lopsided margin of the Red Raiders' last contest will cause them to put forth a better effort Wednesday.
"I don't see us not getting Texas Tech's best shot," said Martin, whose squad is seeking a fourth straight win over the Red Raiders.
The Wildcats have been led all season by Rodney McGruder, who scored a career-high 33 against the Longhorns. He was held to 14 versus the Cowboys as Kansas State overcame 36.4 percent shooting in a defensive struggle.
Martin said Tuesday that forward Jordan Henriquez has been reinstated and is available for this game. Henriquez had been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
Martin says Henriquez ''just lost his focus and needed time to understand his priorities.''
The 6-foot-11 junior has played in 17 games this season, starting six, and is averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes.
Kansas State dominated Oklahoma State 50-29 on the glass without the 7-footer, and Gillispie wants to see his team match the Wildcats' physical play.
"It's a team that just grinds it out and those are the teams I appreciate the most," said Gillispie about the Wildcats. "They play for 40 minutes."
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