Cartier Diarra Kansas St Iowa St Basketball

Kansas State guard Cartier Diarra (left) fights for the ball against Iowa State guard Prentiss Nixon (right) during the first half of Saturday’s game in Ames, Iowa. Diarra scored 24 points to lead all scorers in a 73-63 loss for the Wildcats.

Cartier Diarra vows that ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla’s criticism couldn’t be more off base. Following Saturday’s loss at Iowa State, Diarra, a junior guard for Kansas State, said Fraschilla’s opinions about him were “very false.”

During the first half of Tuesday’s home loss to top-ranked Baylor, Diarra picked up a technical foul after arguing with officials. The technical came moments after what Diarra viewed as a missed call on a drive to the basket.

Fraschilla didn’t hold back.

“Listen, I like this kid. He’s a great story,” said Fraschilla, the color commentator for the nationally broadcast game on ESPN2. “But the body language — I talked to him (about it) before when I came to practice — I don’t think his mind is with Kansas State. I really don’t. I think his mind is on playing professional basketball. This is a mistake for him. This is a mistake. He’s blowing a very good opportunity to be a very good college player.”

Fraschilla also pointed out that Diarra recently had been “coming off the bench as of late.” But Saturday, Diarra was back in the Wildcats’ starting lineup, scoring a game-high 24 points in a 73-63 loss to the Cyclones.

Afterward, however, he wanted to set the record straight.

“I’m a very realistic person and I’m here to play for K-State, here to win games,” Diarra told reporters. “That’s my goal. Right now, we’re not winning and I know what it takes to get to that next level — winning is one of them. So I’ve got to win some games and that’s what my focus is on right now.”

Diarra said he wasn’t necessarily more motivated Saturday than he would be for any other game. That’s because, he said, he’s “motivated every night.” All that changed was knowing he might play a few more minutes than he had been coming off the bench.

“I just wanted to try to execute,” he said, “and do as much as I can to help the team win.”

K-State head coach Bruce Weber said it wasn’t by chance that Diarra returned to the starting five. He said he hoped it stoked a fire within Diarra to improve his play going forward.

“I said, ‘It’s your chance. Go out there and play,’” Weber said. “But he’s still got to be better if we’re going to win. He had good numbers, but still got to be a little better, make some better reads.”

Lineup remains fluid

During a press conference Monday, Weber said he wasn’t ready to commit to putting Diarra back in the lineup long term. Depending on his evaluation of Monday’s practice, he said either Diarra would make his second straight start or junior David Sloan would return to the lineup.

Taking things day by day goes hand in hand with another change Weber is making: He’s decided he’s “going to coach them harder” now than earlier in the season. The time for “mollycoddling,” he said, is over.

“For a while there I was trying to be, ‘Oh, you’re OK. We’re fine,” he said. “Give you hugs and kisses and all that stuff. I literally have kissed some guys in practice, just trying to make them feel good. Now, I’m going to coach them hard. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. That’s fine. I’m going to try to do it the way I know and the way, I think, you can be successful.”

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