Paulding leads Tigers to victory over K-State

Rickey Paulding is nothing if not a patriot.

Before President's Day, the junior wing was averaging 11.1 points per game for his career. After that day, he honors former commanders-in-chief by raising his numbers to 12.7 points per game.

This includes a jump from 6.4 to 8.7 points his freshman year and 11.1 to 14 his sophomore year.

Since Feb. 17, President's Day of this year, Paulding has averaged 17.5 points per game, including 23 in a 77-70 victory over Kansas State on Saturday.

Junior point guard Ricky Clemons said Paulding is the Tigers' leader.

"He's the superstar of this team," Clemons said.

Paulding stepped up several times when the game was close against Kansas State. The score was tied at 39 with 15:55 left when Paulding scored five straight points. The Tigers (18-7 overall, 9-5 Big 12) led 65-64 at 1:55 when Paulding outscored the Wildcats 8-2 to make the score 73-66 with 36 seconds left.

Clemons said Paulding led the team to victory in Manhattan.

"He just had the will to not let us lose," Clemons said.

Coach Quin Snyder said Paulding's experience is paying dividends as MU hits the season's final stretch.

"I just think that going through the wars over the Big 12 season, you see his maturity and confidence increase," Snyder said.

Paulding may have more Big 12 wars past this season as both he and Junior Center Arthur Johnson announced they will return to the team for their senior year.

Confidence was not the only thing that increased against the Wildcats as MU shot 17-of-20 ' 85 percent ' from the free throw line. The Tigers are shooting only 65 percent from the line on the season. MU was 7-of-7 from the free throw line over the game's last two minutes.

Snyder said mental toughness has been an important asset for the Tigers at the free throw line lately.

"Guys are just stepping up and hitting them with confidence," Snyder said.

Clemons scored 17 points Saturday and freshman guard Jimmy McKinney added 12 points and seven assists.

MU's next game will be against Iowa State (14-11, 4-10) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Ames, Iowa. In the Cyclones' last game, they lost 69-63 to last place Nebraska in Lincoln.

Despite this loss, junior forward Travon Bryant said MU can not afford to let up against Iowa State.

"Iowa State always plays us tough," Bryant said.

Junior guard Jake Sullivan leads Iowa State in scoring with 18.2 points per game, but was held to 10 on 4-of-9 shooting in its 64-59 loss to MU in the Hearnes Center earlier this season.

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