CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Kansas State will seek a perfect record through four games for the first time in three seasons and look for its first non-conference road victory in nearly two years when the Wildcats travel to face Cleveland State on Saturday. The Wildcats know the crowd at the 8,500-capacity Wolstein Center won't make it easy as they play away from home for the first time since the NCAA Tournament second-round game last March.
Forward Ron Anderson, who comes off his first-career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in a 82-60 win against Emporia State on Wednesday, believes he and six fellow returners have held onto the second-round ouster by No. 6-ranked Wisconsin.
It's a good time to play away from Manhattan.
"We're eager to get back into that environment," Anderson said. "We won't have that sixth man to our advantage. For a lot of us, we lost to Wisconsin and were in an environment where we had our fans, but they had theirs. We're eager to get back on the road. That's when you truly find out how to work as a team and how to get better. We're going to need that will to succeed going into the Big 12. Those Big 12 road wins are going to be most valuable to us.
"Going on the road, we'll learn how to get those hard victories. On the road, all you have are you teammates and coaches. This weekend, learning to do that, we'll be fine."
Second-year coach Frank Martin talks about growth moments for his team and the Wildcats experienced several of them in being out-rebounded in the first half by Emporia State, which shot 50 percent from the floor during the half. K-State used a 24-7 scoring run to pull away from the Division II Hornets during the second half.
Players afterward insisted Martin wasn't "upset" after the win, which improved K-State to 20-1 in November home games. K-State has scored 266 points in its first three games this season, fourth-most in school history for an opening three-game stretch and the most in 11 years.
Martin, who substituted 38 times, including 22 times in the first half, wanted to see improvement within diverse lineups on the court.
"We're not trying to win a championship in November," Martin said. "We're trying to become a better team in November so that we can face the challenges that come our way. The season gets harder. The season doesn't get easier. You've got to be challenged. You've got to grow. If we were playing 40 minutes of perfect basketball right now, I'd be concerned we'd get bored because there's not much room for improvement. The one thing that's consistent is that we can improve."
Martin believes the Wildcats will get a stiff challenge from Cleveland State, which comes off a 78-63 loss at Washington on Tuesday after posting 58-55 win against Oakland last Saturday. Cleveland State, the Horizon preseason favorite, returns four starters from a squad that finished 21-12 a year ago. The Vikings average 60.5 points on 33.1 percent shooting, including 21.6 percent on 3-pointers.
"(It's) not just a road game, (it's) a very hard road game," Martin said. "I like being challenged. I don't like things being easy. There are a lot of guys that were 20-0 when they stepped into the ring with Mike Tyson but they were never challenged and the first time they got hit they got knocked down. I like our team to get challenged. I'm not comfortable until somebody punches me in my mouth. When I get punched in the mouth, then that's when I get settled down and get comfortable because I understand what I'm dealing with. It's that way for our team going to Cleveland State.
"We're getting ready to get punched in the mouth. It's part of our maturation."
The Wildcats are 1-1 against Cleveland State all-time but have lost their last five against members from the Horizon league. The Wildcats are also just 3-7 in non-conference road games dating back to the 2002-03 season.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: This has the makings of being the one of the most explosive K-State offenses in history, and it's not one player doing the damage, either. Through three games, eight different players have recorded double digits in points and six average double figures. Denis Clemente, Fred Brown and Dominique Sutton have each led the team in scoring and that diversity could be difficult for the Vikings to handle.
K-State should handle the boards as the Wildcats average 47.7 rebounds, including 20.3 on the offensive end, while the Vikings average 38.5 rebounds.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE WILDCATS: Fred Brown isn't afraid to get it going and can score in bunches. The sophomore has come off the bench to average a team-high 13.3 points on 53.6 percent shooting (15-for-28), including 57.1 percent (8-for-14) on 3-pointers. Brown, who went a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc against Emporia State, has more than half of the team's 3-pointers this season. Brown has scored 35 of his 40 points this season in the last two contests.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE VIKINGS: Sophomore guard Norris Cole has seemingly stepped in nicely as a starter. After his first two career starts, the 6-foot-1, 165-pounder leads four others in double figures in averaging a team-high 17.0 points on 42.4 percent shooting this season. Cole comes off a career-high 20-point effort on 8-for-19 shooting against Washington with a career-high nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.