MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -Kansas State built up confidence during its nonconference schedule, beating up on weaker teams and knocking off a few decent ones on the way to an 11-3 record.
Even without departed All-American Michael Beasley, the young Wildcats believed they could win.
Then came a disheartening loss to Oklahoma. Rattled and reeling, Kansas State went on to lose its next three games. All that confidence, gone in one game.
``We were shaken,'' Kansas State coach Frank Martin said.
Now, it seems, Kansas State is back on track.
A difficult road win in overtime over Colorado brought the confidence back, and it carried over into Wednesday night's one-sided 88-72 win over Missouri.
Forcing turnovers, pushing the pace and spotting up for 3-pointers, the Wildcats poured it on against a Tigers team off to its best start in 14 years. The win restored Kansas State's belief that it can beat just about anyone.
w to win,'' said Jacob Pullen, who had 23 points and five 3-pointers against Missouri. ``Getting that win against Colorado provided us that spark, telling us that we can beat any team in the Big 12 and get a streak going.''
A year ago, Kansas State could rely on Beasley to hit a key basket or grab an important rebound to pull the team through. Bill Walker also was there to pick up the slack when Beasley couldn't do it.
But this season, with those two players in the NBA, the Wildcats have had to figure out ways to win games on their own.
It hasn't been easy.
A young team - forward Darren Kent is the only senior in the regular rotation - the Wildcats were able to get by on talent in the early part of the season, wearing out teams like Southeast Missouri State, Emporia State and Gardner-Webb.
Kansas State had some trouble in games against big-conference schools, losing to Kentucky, Iowa and Oregon in consecutive games, but bounced back with six straight wins heading into Big 12 play.
The confident Wildcats believed they could beat Oklahoma in the conference opener - or any other team in the Big 12, for that matter. Instead, they got pushed around and lost by eight despite playing solid defense and harassing preseason All-American Blake Griffin most of the game.
s State followed with lopsided losses to Kansas, Nebraska and Baylor, and was in desperate need of something positive.
The 77-75 win over Colorado was the first step, and beating Missouri has the Wildcats back to believing in themselves.
``We went on a losing streak and we had our heads down,'' said freshman Jamar Samuels, who had 18 points against Missouri. ``We came out (Wednesday) and played with more passion.''
Now, the Wildcats will see if they can sustain it. They've done it before: The last four times Kansas State opened conference play with a 1-4 record, it rallied to win at least six games.
In a relatively down year in the Big 12 - Texas and Oklahoma are the only ranked teams- the Wildcats have a chance to make a run.
Of course, Kansas State's next game is against No. 11 Texas in Austin on Saturday, so keeping the modest winning streak alive won't be easy.
The key will be how the Wildcats respond if they do lose. With a little over a month left in the regular season, the Wildcats can't afford to let another loss put them back into a funk.
``We've got to be excited about where we're going, that we're back to playing the kind of basketball that we played for the majority of the year, but we've got to grow,'' Martin said. ``We've got to be willing to accept what comes our way and be willing to take it on and continue to grow.''
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