LAS VEGAS -- Kansas State head coach Frank Martin says his lone goal is playing for them, but there will be no trophy at stake when the Wildcats collide with Iowa in the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday. Sure a loss to an underachieving Kentucky team in the weekend's first game stung K-State's nostrils, but a regular-season meeting with a Big 10 Conference opponent is never a meaningless outing.
"We'll go play a consolation game," Martin said following Friday's loss. "That's what you get when you lose."
The Wildcats wasted no time at all to start their preparation for Iowa, as the team filled into to film room just minutes after leaving the arena following it opening-day loss.
Whether the venue is Las Vegas or Las Cruces, Martin's team's grind is constant.
"They're headed back to meet with (K-State associate head coach Dalonte Hill) to see the scouting report," Martin said almost immediately after leaving the court on Friday. "Then, we'll meet as a staff and formulate a game plan before a 10 a.m. shootaround. We'll put in our thoughts on what we have to do to win the game."
But while the second-year head coach will undoubtedly do what he can to have his team ready for Saturday's contest, his message to his team remains clear:
Whether it's to a traditional basketball powerhouse or not, losing is never an acceptable option.
"Nobody is our locker room is happy," said K-State sophomore guard Jacob Pullen, who scored a game-high 20 points in Friday's loss." We don't believe in moral victories."
That being said, unless Martin and his staff have Marty McFly, Doc Brown and a silver Delorian on stand by, there's no way of changing what happened Friday night in Sin City. But can a team as young as K-State, which is comprised mostly of sophomores, take anything away from a loss to a big-time program such as Kentucky on a neutral court?
"It's good to lose a game early in the season," said Pullen, who inured his knee late against Kentucky but finished the game and is expected to play versus Iowa. "It can bring you back to life."
Not so fast, Jake.
The opinions on this issue seem to differ dramatically.
There are certainly lessons for K-State to learn from its first loss of the season, but the Wildcats' head coach would just assume they not bother. See, in Martin's mind, basketball games are about the final results, not learning, and Saturday's consolation contest is no exception.
"I don't think you learn anything from losing," Martin said. "You learn from mistakes. You don't learn from losing. We have to find the will and the inner strength to go prepare and go win a game (against Iowa)."
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: K-State has made its goal clear from the get-go. This year's Wildcats want to win games with in-your-face pressure defense, and that recipe almost worked against Kentucky, as K-State turned their Wildcat counterparts over a whopping 30 times.
Still, however, K-State managed to come up short, a fact that helps put Saturday's consolation game mostly on the shoulders of a somewhat inconsistent Wildcat offense that sputtered against Kentucky, managing just 59 points, a season low.
Martin made his displeasure with his team's offensive execution public following the loss, but a game against an Iowa team that surrendered 87 points to West Virginia, a squad not known for being an offensive giant, should help to cure most of K-State's ailments.
Make no mistake about it, however, the Wildcats' defense will need provide the spark K-State needs in Saturday's game and beyond, so an unlikely breakdown on that end of the court could be catastrophic against any opponent, including the Hawkeyes, who posses at least a few players capable of scoring in bunches if the opportunity arises.
WHO'S HOT FOR KANSAS STATE: Pullen's 24 points against Kentucky were a game high, and more times than not this season, the sophomore has posted a large scoring total. It has become clear that as Pullen and fellow guard Denis Clemente, who scored 11 points Friday, go, so too does K-State. The duo has shown the ability to change games in the early season, but consistency will be key for both on Saturday.
WHO'S HOT FOR IOWA: Hawkeye guard Anthony Tucker scored a game-high 24 points in Iowa's loss to West Virginia on Friday, and he must be the primary focus of K-State defensive effort. The freshman was an astounding 6 for 9 from 3-point range against the Mountaineers, and if he stays hot against the Wildcats, things could get a tad more interesting than expected.