Kansas State hopes to find “joy” in Lawrence tonight when the No. 5 Wildcats take on the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks.
As Wildcat guard Jacob Pullen says, “We take joy in silencing other people’s crowd.”
Jamar Samuels adds, “When we go on the road we like to hear silence so it seems like a practice.”
For certain, it will not be just like a practice tonight at 7 p.m. when the teams come together in the storied Allen Fieldhouse. For 27-2 Kansas, it will be “Senior Night” for Sherron Collins and the Jayhawks are playing for an out-right Big 12 title. Kansas State, 24-4, is still playing for a share of that league title, and, with hopes of securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With all that on the line, Allen is certain to be rocking and rolling as KU tries to extend the nation’s longest current home floor winning streak at 58 games. That dates back to a 69-66 loss to Texas A&M on Feb. 3, 2007. Four nights later Kansas defeated K-State, 97-70, and has not lost since on its home floor.
While its fact that KU has won 39 of the last 41 meetings with K-State, this is a different year against a unique K-State team that has found life on the road to its liking with a 6-1 Big 12 record outside of Bramlage Coliseum.
“We shoot better on the road. I don’t think we’re as antsy,” said Pullen of playing away from their home crowd. “I think we’re more focused. We know their crowd will be amped up and ready to go just like ours was here. We just need to focus in, stay the course, eliminate their big runs, and make our own runs.”
The numbers have been told, and retold of K-State’s road success this year. In six Big 12 home games, K-State has yet to shoot 50 percent from the field, but on the road they have done so three times.
At home, the ‘Cats have hit over 40 percent of their 3-pointers just once, while on the road they have been over 50 percent twice and two other games of at least 38 percent.
“I’m not sure what it is,” said Dominique Sutton, “but for now I hope the trend continues.”
A TREND THE ‘CATS WOULD LIKE TO STOP
Does this No. 5 ranked team of Kansas State just like to challenge itself, or what?
Since losing to Kansas in overtime in Bramlage Coliseum, Kansas State rolled through the month of February with a perfect 7-0 record with wins over Nebraska (2), Iowa State, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri.
In two of those games, K-State trailed at the half, in another the game was tied at intermission, and in two others the ‘Cats held leads of only two points.
In four of the games, K-State shot under 40 percent in the first half, which included a 19 percent stinker this past Saturday against Missouri where it had one stretch of 17 straight miss-fires.
But get this. The ‘Cats have had second-half shooting marks of 48, 54, 56, 54, 58, 52 and 54 percent. Yes, K-State went from 19 percent shooting in the first half to 54 percent in the second half against the Tigers on Saturday.
“Staying the course,” in the words of Frank Martin, has been Kansas State’s key to finding the range during the second 20-minute period of games. To the Wildcat coach, it’s part of the Wildcat maturity.
“In the past when we didn’t make shots it would affect the spirit of the team, but now we’re playing through those moments and staying the course,” said Martin. “We’re playing with more confidence and not giving in to those situations.”
While it’s fact that K-State has averaged 44 points in the second half to just 34 points in the first during the seven-game run, it might be a slow-start trend that it tries to avoid tonight.
When the ‘Cats fall into a lapse, Martin says, “It’s usually because we’re not pressuring the rim. We’re not posting up or our guards are neglecting the bigs. When we play bad offensively, that’s normally what gets us into trouble.”
OTHER GAME DECIDING FACTORS:
• HITTING FREE THROWS:
K-State’s mission each game is to get to the foul line, and they’ve done so. In Big 12 games only, K-State has made 23 more, and attempted 55 more free throws more than Kansas to lead the league in both areas.
BUT, the ‘Cats have made just 67 percent from the foul line to rank 10th in the league.
On the subject, Martin says, “Our guys missing free throw is not about mechanics. Our inability to shoot free throws is mental, just like when we don’t play well. It’s focus. We need to focus in on what we need to do to make shots.”
On paper, it’s basically dead even, just as it was in the first game when K-State won the board game, 38-37, which included a 21-16 advantage at the offensive end.
Of K-State’s rebounding ability, KU coach Bill Self says, “They go after every ball. They are relentless. We can talk about technique, but forget that. Go get your man and go get the ball. That’s the bottom line, and they are relentless at doing so.”
For the record, in the last three games – MU, Tech and OU – K-State has been out-rebounded at the offensive end by a total of 41-35. In Big 12 play, KU ranks first in rebound margin at +5.7 and K-State fourth at +4.2.
Last year, and again this year, Kansas has defended K-State with a triangle-and-two defense in some portions of the game when the Wildcats have only two shooters on the floor. In part, that led to Clemente and Pullen shooting 8-for-28 in Lawrence and 14-for-29 in Manhattan last year, and earlier this year the two KSU guards were a chilly 12-for-33. On facing the defense, Martin said, “Our guys are getting a better feel for it. In January we did the best we’ve done in handling it. We’ll prepare for it, but it will come down to the decisions the kids will have to make during the course of the game.”
BY THE NUMBERS
For the total season, here’s a look at how K-State and KU compare statistically.
Record 24-4 ... 27.2
Scoring 80.4 ... 82.4
Defense 68.3 ... 63.8
FT Percent .459 ... .488
FT Percent .660 ... .692
3-Pt Percent .360 ... .400
3s Per Game 6.75 ... 7.34
Reb. Margin +5.4 ... +6.9
Blocked Shots 5.0 ... 6.4
Steals 7.21 ... 8.69
Turnover Margin. +2.18 ... +1.97