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Getting to know Kansas State

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Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber directs his defense during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber directs his defense during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Already 2-6 outside of Manhattan this season (1-4 in true road games, 1-2 at neutral sites), things don’t figure to get any easier for Bruce Weber’s Kansas State basketball team Saturday, when the Wildcats head east on I-70 to play the Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas has knocked off K-State eight times in a row in Lawrence, with the last rivalry game road win for the guys in purple coming in 2006.

KU has won 13 of the last 15 meetings in the series and holds a 39-4 record against the Wildcats in the Big 12 era.

What’s more, the Wildcats (12-9 overall, 5-3 Big 12) enter the showdown having lost two of their last three games, falling at Iowa State and at home to West Virginia (both by six points), while beating Oklahoma State by 10 in Manhattan.

In order to beat Bill Self’s No. 9 Kansas team (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big 12), K-State will have to execute its defensive game plan and hope one of its top players is available (more on that to come).

In conference games, Weber’s squad only allows 60.5 points (second to Oklahoma State’s 59.5) and has held foes to 40.6% shooting (fifth in Big 12). The Wildcats also have limited their opposition to 30.1% 3-point shooting (second in the Big 12 to TCU’s 26.3%).

Here are the K-State players the Jayhawks will have to worry about as they try to stay atop the Big 12 standings.

WILDCATS STARTERS

No. 2 — Marcus Foster, 6-3, sophomore G

Kansas State guard Marcus Foster pulls up for a three before Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe during the second half on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State guard Marcus Foster pulls up for a three before Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe during the second half on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

K-State’s leading scorer comes in averaging 13.8 points, but that’s not the only category in which he leads the Wildcats. Foster has team-highs in: field goals (91), FGs attempted (216), made 3-pointers (51), 3-point tries (126), double-digit scoring games (17), 20-point games (4), and minutes (28.9).

Foster is by far the Wildcats’ top 3-point shooter, having hit 39 more than teammates Justin Edwards and Nigel Johnson (12 each).

He averages 2.2 assists per game, while hitting 42.1% of his shots and 40.5% of his 3-pointers.

Last season against KU, Foster averaged 13.5 points on 36.4% shooting. But Self said Friday he can tell Foster asserts himself more on offense this season, especially in Big 12 play.

The dynamic sophomore guard is averaging 13.4 points through eight league games while doing some of his damage by getting to the foul line — 32 for 42 (76.2%) in Big 12 action.

K-State has benefited when Foster isn’t doing the scoring alone, though. The Wildcats are 8-2 when three players reach double figures in the same game. Foster averages 15.9 points in those contests.

Foster went through a bit of a slump earlier this season, and even finished scoreless at Oklahoma State to open Big 12 play. Since then, he’s averaging 15.3 points and shooting 41.3%.

He had his worst shooting night since the league opener earlier this week, vs. WVU, making just 4 of his 12 shots.

hoop-math.com nugget: As athletic as he is, Foster only takes 20.4% of his shots at the rim. He has hit 25 of those 44 looks (56.8%). Most often, he prefers hoisting 3-pointers — 58.3% of his shots come from downtown.

No. 11 — Nino Williams, 6-5, senior F

Kansas teammates Jamari Traylor, center, and Tarik Black defend against a shot by Kansas State forward Nino Williams during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas teammates Jamari Traylor, center, and Tarik Black defend against a shot by Kansas State forward Nino Williams during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Williams’ status for Saturday afternoon, as of Friday, was up in the air. The athletic wing hurt his knee Tuesday during K-State’s home loss to the Mountaineers. http://www2.kusports.com/news/2015/ja...

If he can’t play, the Wildcats will be without their leading rebounder (4.9 per game), and a guy who has put up 11.7 points while hitting 53.4% of his shots.

Listed as day-to-day, Williams was named co-Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday, and had led K-State in scoring in three straight games, prior to playing 8 minutes vs. WVU:

  • 18 points vs. Baylor

  • 22 points at Iowa State

  • 20 points vs. Oklahoma State

He shot 25-for-37 — 68% — in that three-game stretch.

K-State would miss his energetic approach, too, if he’s unable to go. The Wildcats have a point system that tracks each player’s deflections/blocks, steals, dives, loose balls, offensive rebounds and charges drawn, and Williams has tallied a team-best 162 points.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Williams operates mostly on short- to mid-range offense. 60.9% of his attempts have come on 2-point jumpers. He has hit 44 of 98 (44.9%) in that range.

No. 42 — Thomas Gipson, 6-7, senior F

Arizona guard T.J. McConnell (4) attempts to drive past Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson (42) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Arizona guard T.J. McConnell (4) attempts to drive past Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson (42) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) by Eugene Tanner

The senior post player has become a steady source of offense, hitting 57.3% of his field goal attempts and 74.8% at the free-throw line.

In his seven previous games against Kansas, Gipson has averaged just 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds, but K-State relies upon him more this season.

He has produced double figures in six of his last 12 games, most recently getting 15 at Iowa State. However, the big man also struggled against West Virginia, making 2 of 6 shots and scoring 8 points in the loss.

In K-State wins, Gipson averages 10.5 points and shoots 59.2%.

This season, he leads K-State in free throws made and attempted — 89 for 119.

Defensively, he leads the Wildcats with 10 charges drawn and 14 blocked shots.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Tied with Justin Edwards for the team lead in put-backs on offensive rebounds (12), Gipson takes 60.5% of his shots at the rim and converts 72% of them.

No. 25 — Wesley Iwundu, 6-7, sophomore G

Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu gets an overtime bucket to widen the Wildcats' overtime lead on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu gets an overtime bucket to widen the Wildcats' overtime lead on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Though athletic and active, the second-year wing at times hasn’t provided much offensively: 5.8 ppg on the season on 45.7% shooting. His numbers have improved a little in eight Big 12 games, which coincides with Weber inserting him in the starting lineup: 6.6 points on 48.6% shooting.

Iwundu did score a season-high 12 points (shot 6-for-9 on free throws), pull down 6 rebounds and pass out a team-best 3 assists against West Virginia. But it was just his fourth double-digit output of the season.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Of Iwundu’s 92 shot attempts, he only has made 14 away from the rim.

No. 1 — Jevon Thomas, 6-0, sophomore G

Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes down with a rebound between Kansas State players Thomas Gipson, left, and Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes down with a rebound between Kansas State players Thomas Gipson, left, and Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Another unproductive source of scoring in the starting five, Thomas averages 5.4 points on the season. It’s even worse in Big 12 games: 3.5 points and 37% shooting.

He could help out his numbers by hitting more free throws: 37 for 68 (54.4%) on the season, 6 for 14 (42.9%) in conference games.

If he’s on the floor late, Thomas is the guy you want to foul if you need to: 10 of 21 in the final five minutes of games this year.

What Thomas does bring, though, is ball-handling and passing. He’s eighth in the Big 12 with 3.6 assists a game.

He’s also a disruptive defender, who has 25 steals to his credit.

Thomas hasn’t made more than 2 shots in a game since a 13-point outing at Tennessee in the first week of December. He only went 1-for-2 vs. WVU and combined to shoot 0-for-7 in his previous two games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Thomas has made 34 shots this year, with 20 coming at the rim. He has hit 6 of 17 2-point jumpers and 8 of 21 3-pointers.

WILDCATS BENCH

No. 14 — Justin Edwards, 6-4, junior G

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The most likely Wildcat to throw down a dunk (11 this season), the transfer from Maine comes off the bench and is K-State’s No. 4 scorer: 6.4 points, 39.5% shooter.

Edwards has averaged 3.9 rebounds in Big 12 games and three times this season has led his team in boards.

He also has swiped a team-high 26 steals.

He went scoreless (0-for-4) in 18 minutes vs. West Virginia after back-to-back double-digit outings: 12 at ISU, 14 vs. OSU.

Not a great 3-point shooter (12 for 43 for 27.9%), Edwards hit a pair from deep in each of those recent productive games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Tied for third with Gipson for FG attempts (124), Edwards has only hit 4 of 19 (21.1%) 2-point jumpers. He prefers getting to the rim: 33 for 62 (53.2%).

No. 41 — Stephen Hurt, 6-11, junior F

Another transfer, who formerly called Lipscomb and NW Florida State home, Hurt might have his name called more often than usual as Weber tries to match up with KU’s front line.

The big man averages just 4.8 points and 3.3 boards a game. But he’s fourth on K-State with 25 offensive rebounds despite playing 13.7 minutes. He hauled in 6 of those at Long Beach State in November.

Despite his size, Hurt only has blocked 3 shots this season.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Only 34.8% of his attempts come at the rim, but he makes 73.9% there. 53% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, where he makes 37.1%.

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