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Posts tagged with Kansas State Basketball

Still ahead of reigning champs in standings, Wildcats not interested in sharing 1st

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) gets up to block a shot from Kansas State guard Barry Brown Jr. (5) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) gets up to block a shot from Kansas State guard Barry Brown Jr. (5) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Wildcats may yet dethrone the Big 12’s seemingly forever reigning champions, but they missed out on the opportunity to shovel a substantial amount of dirt on their rivals’ graves on Monday.

A Kansas State victory in Allen Fieldhouse would have all but officially put an end to the Kansas basketball program’s 14-year run as kings of the conference.

And that fact wasn’t lost on the Wildcats following KU’s 64-49 victory, which put the Jayhawks 1 game back of first-place K-State with three games to go in the regular season.

“We talked about just keeping our emotions in check,” Barry Brown said of the players’ plans entering the marquee Sunflower Showdown, in which they understood they had a chance to knock KU out. “And I think throughout the game (K-State’s emotions) kind of went high and low and then high again. I think they kind of played a factor into it and some of the shots that we took and some of the things that went on throughout the game.”

The spiritual and mental well being of the Wildcats (21-7 overall, 11-4 Big 12) will be monitored closely by their coach, Bruce Weber, in the days ahead. Unlike the Jayhawks (21-7, 10-5), they control their own destiny in this frenzied league title race.

“We are a first-place team,” Weber pointed out after Monday’s loss at KU. “We’ve got a three-game season in eight days. You know, what are we about? Are we about leadership, toughness, discipline? If we’re about those things we’ll be fine.”

That schedule mentioned by Weber is one of great interest to the Jayhawks, too, because they need K-State — as well as Texas Tech — to lose again at some point this week or next in order to have a chance at gaining a share of this year’s Big 12 title.

Here’s what’s left for the Wildcats:

• Baylor on Saturday

• at TCU on Monday

• Oklahoma on March 9

Weber has maintained since this past week, he shared, that he thought the upcoming Baylor game in Manhattan would be the “toughest” one among his team’s final four games — a stretch that began with Monday’s loss at KU.

It wasn’t that Weber thought the Bears (18-9, 9-5) were better than the Jayhawks or a more difficult matchup for his Wildcats. K-State’s coach just figured it could be difficult for his group to emotionally recover from its trip to Allen Fieldhouse in time to be thoroughly prepared for all that Baylor has to offer.

“Just because, no matter what, (KU versus K-State) is so big. And no matter what happened, win or lose, you’ve got to get ready for Baylor. And I just thought it was going to be — what do you call them? Trap games? You guys use different words. I don’t know,” Weber explained.

“And Baylor, the way they play and how hungry they are and physical, we’ve got to come ready to play. I knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t tell the players that. I told (reporters) that and I told our staff that. I said it to our staff probably a week ago,” Weber related. “And again I’m always worried. I was worried about Oklahoma State. And I cussed (the Wildcats) out at shootaround (before the game with OSU), and they responded. I guess I didn’t have the right message (Monday against KU).”

At face value, the Wildcats don’t look like a team that will suddenly begin reeling just because they lost at Kansas.

In the meantime, Weber hopes his postgame message to his team sets the stage for a successful final push to the regular season.

“It’s done and over with. We’ve got to worry about Baylor,” Weber said of his first point in the visitors’ locker room after the rivalry game defeat.

“And to hang together and being coachable. That’s the biggest thing,” Weber would continue. “We’re good and we’re in first place because we’ve got a great group. They’ve been very, very coachable. They listen. They want to do what we say. We’ve got great, great leadership, and that’s got to be the driving force down the stretch.”

Regardless of what KU does from now to March 9 or what becomes of Texas Tech’s last four games on the calendar, the Wildcats know if they go 3-0 the Big 12 championship is theirs — either outright or as co-champs with the Red Raiders.

That knowledge can either be empowering or overwhelming.

Following K-State’s loss, Kamau Stokes’ words leaned toward the former.

“I don’t feel like our confidence is low at all. We talked about it in the locker room. At the end of the day we’re still in first place,” Stokes said. “In order to stay there we’ve got to worry about Saturday. The only difference is we’re sharing it now (tied with Tech in the loss column). I feel like our confidence is at a point where we don’t want to share first place with anybody. So we’ve got to get back in the gym, learn from this game and, like I said, get ready for Saturday, because that’s a big game.”

It’s one KU fans dreaming of the program’s historic streak living on should keep their eyes on, because Baylor is the best of K-State’s final three foes. Entering Tuesday’s games, KenPom.com ranked the Bears 32nd nationally, ahead of No. 40 OU and No. 42 TCU.

The Jayhawks, for a change, aren’t in good position entering the season’s final days. That upper hand belongs to the first-place Wildcats, who last won a conference title in 2013, when they shared it with, well, you know who.

Reply 9 comments from Carsonc30 Rockn_chalkn_ku Stephen Simmons Steve Corder Andy Godwin Surrealku Michael Maris Dane Pratt

These guys again: K-State will have to rely on defense, rebounding to upset KU

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber is pulled back by Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) while disputing an out-of-bounds ball during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber is pulled back by Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) while disputing an out-of-bounds ball during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In theory, the Big 12’s first-place team should be able to go into the arena of the league’s eighth-place team and win with relative ease. But you know what they say about rivalry games, and Kansas enters Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown at Kansas State looking for its first win against Bruce Weber’s Wildcats in Bramlage Coliseum since Perry Ellis’ freshman year.

(Insert your When was that? 1992?-type joke here.)

At 15-11 overall and 4-9 in the Big 12, the Wildcats aren’t particularly impressive. Still, just two weeks ago they shocked Oklahoma in Manhattan, 80-69.

Ranked No. 44 in the nation by kenpom.com, college hoops’ math wizard actually really likes K-State’s defense, which ranks ninth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

The No. 2-ranked Jayhawks (22-4, 10-3) know the Wildcats compete on defense and on the glass. K-State made KU look awful on the boards in Allen Fieldhouse, as Kansas got out-rebounded 36-21 in an 18-point home win.

Kansas State had similar success while knocking off Oklahoma. The Sooners lost the battle of the boards, 36-29. But the Wildcats really won that game by taking away OU’s 3-pointers. The Sooners only made 6 of 24 from deep at Bramlage and shot a miserable 11.1% in the second half.

If K-State can control the glass again versus Kansas and duplicate the 3-point defense it played against Oklahoma, that’s a great recipe for an upset with the Wildcats’ rabid fan base providing moral support.

Obviously, Weber’s team isn’t unbeatable at home. K-State’s three Bramlage losses all came against ranked teams: West Virginia, 87-83 (2OT), Iowa State, 76-63, and Baylor, 82-72.

We’ll find out Saturday if Kansas can join that bunch or if K-State will win 3 consecutive home games against KU for the first time since 1981-83.

Now it’s time to get reacquainted with the Wildcats Bill Self’s Jayhawks will have to keep in check to maintain sole possession of first place in the Big 12.

KANSAS STATE STARTERS

No. 25 — G/F Wesley Iwundu | 6-7, 210, jr.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. and Kansas guard Brannen Greene, right, try to smother a pass from Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. and Kansas guard Brannen Greene, right, try to smother a pass from Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Feb. 3 at KU: 15 points, 5/7 FGs, 1/2 3s, 4/4 FTs, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers, 1 steal in 37 minutes

  • K-State’s most versatile player, junior Wesley Iwundu averages 12.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

  • Iwundu has led the Wildcats in scoring 7 times, in assists 13 times and in rebounding 5 times this season.

  • Against Oklahoma, Iwundu poured in 22 points, a personal career best in a Big 12 game. He also led K-State with 7 rebounds and 3 steals in the upset.

  • Iwundu has only hit 6 of his 26 attempts from 3-point range (23.1%) this season. He’s improved a little in Big 12 play: 4 of 13 (30.8%).

  • Leads K-State in free-throw attempts but is shooting 68.5% (85 of 124).

No. 14 — G Justin Edwards | 6-4, 200, sr.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) gets a hand on a shot from Kansas State guard Justin Edwards (14) during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) gets a hand on a shot from Kansas State guard Justin Edwards (14) during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Feb. 3 at KU: 2 points, 1/9 FGs, 0/3 3s, 6 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal in 31 minutes

  • The only senior in K-State’s starting lineup, Justin Edwards barely trails Iwundu for the team lead in scoring (12.0 points) and adds 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists, as well.

  • Edwards scored a game-high 17 points at TCU this week in a rare road win for the inconsistent Wildcats.

  • In Big 12 games, Edwards leads the team in points (11.3), rebounding, (5.6) and steals (2.1).

  • Ten times in Big 12 play, Edwards has swiped 2 or more steals.

  • On the year, Edwards has made 25 of 87 from 3-point range (28.7%).

  • He’s an active guard on the offensive glass, averaging 2.3 a game, with a team-leading 61 offensive rebounds on the season.

No. 32 — F Dean Wade | 6-10, 225, fr.

None by K-State Athletics

— Feb. 3 at KU: 5 points, 2/3 FGs, 1/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 fouls in 26 minutes

  • Freshman big man Dean Wade comes in averaging 10.0 points and 5.3 rebounds, and likely motivated to prove he can hang with the Jayhawks after a poor showing in his first collegiate game against Kansas.

  • Wade stepped up against Oklahoma, scoring a career-best 17 points, even though Weber didn’t start him that game.

  • The big man’s activity on defense at TCU helped him come away with 4 steals.

  • Maybe one day the young post player’s long-range shooting will come around. For now, Wade is hitting just 28.8% of his 3-pointers (19 of 66). He’s actually dipped even lower in Big 12 games: 9 of 37 (24.3%).

  • On 2-point attempts in conference games, Wade is converting 50.7% of the time.

  • His 10 blocked shots in Big 12 games ranks 2nd on K-State.

No. 5 — G Barry Brown | 6-3, 195, fr.

None by K-State Basketball

— Feb. 3 at KU: 11 points, 4/10 FGs, 3/7 3s, 0/1 FTs, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals in 28 minutes off the bench

  • A freshman guard who is gaining steam of late, Barry Brown averages 9.0 points on the season, and recently got promoted to the starting lineup.

  • Brown started the first game of his career in K-State’s upset win over OU.

  • In the past week, Brown averaged 13 points in road games at Oklahoma State and TCU. He nailed 6 of 11 3-pointers in those games, as K-State went 1-1.

  • Before moving to the starting 5, Brown led K-State in scoring from the bench in 5 games.

  • In Big 12 games, Brown averages 11.2 points.

  • Now that Kamau Stokes is out with an injury, Brown has caught up with Stokes for the team lead in 3-pointers. Brown is shooting 34.7% from beyond the arc: 35 of 101.

No. 4 — F D.J. Johnson | 6-9, 250, jr.

Kansas State's D.J. Johnson (4) and Baylor's Ishmail Wainright battle for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. Baylor won 82-72. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas State's D.J. Johnson (4) and Baylor's Ishmail Wainright battle for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. Baylor won 82-72. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

— Feb. 3 at KU: 9 points, 3/4 FGs, 3/4 FTs, 4 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 5 fouls in 12 minutes

  • K-State’s bruiser in the paint, junior D.J. Johnson averages 8 points and 5 boards, while leading the team in field-goal%, at 63.3%.

  • Johnson’s numbers have come in less than 20 minutes a game, as he eased back into playing after sitting out the previous season with a broken foot.

  • A starter in K-State’s last 4 games, Johnson has averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while hitting 62% of his shots since the change.

  • Put up a career-high 19 points and led K-State with 8 rebounds against Baylor, in a 10-point home loss.

  • When K-State knocked off Oklahoma, Johnson contributed 12 points off 5-for-6 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds.

  • Johnson has a team-best 13 blocks in Big 12 games.

  • With 60 offensive boards on the season, Johnson is averaging 2.4 a game in just 19.6 minutes a game.

KANSAS STATE BENCH

No. 41 — F Stephen Hurt | 6-11, 265, sr.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for position with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for position with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Feb. 3 at KU: 14 points, 6/13 FGs, 0/4 3s, 2/4 FTs, 11 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 turnovers, 1 block, 1 steal in 28 minutes as a starter

  • A former starter, senior big man Stephen Hurt averages 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds on the season. However, he more than doubled both of those numbers against Kansas earlier this month.

  • Hurt enjoys taking jumpers but has made just 11 of 41 from behind the 3-point line (26.8%).

  • While his minutes are down in K-State’s past 3 games (11.7 a game), Weber figures to use him more against Kansas, given his success in the first meeting.

No. 1 — G Carlbe Ervin II | 6-3, 205, jr.

None by K-State Athletics

— Feb. 3 at KU: 0 points, 0/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 4 fouls in 21 minutes as a starter

  • A substitute role player, junior Carlbe Ervin II averages 2.9 points and 2.0 rebounds, and actually has started 5 games this season.

  • In 2 of his last 3 games, Ervin has grabbed 3 offensive rebounds. He’s averaging 4.7 boards in his last 3 games.

  • Beginning with K-State’s trip to KU, Ervin has struggled from the field. In his last 5 games, he has only made 2 of 15 shot attempts (13.3%).

  • Ervin has made just 3 of 22 from 3-point range this year (13.6%).

No. 35 — F Austin Budke | 6-6, 220, jr.

None by Big 12 Conference

— Feb. 3 at KU: 3 points, 1/1 FGs, 1/1 3s, 1 (offensive) rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover in 13 minutes off the bench

  • Another role player, junior Austin Budke averages just 2.8 points and 2.2 rebounds.

  • The walk-on has played in every game, averaging just 13.8 minutes.

  • Budke has hit 50% of his shots in Big 12 games, but only 1 of 3 from deep (he made his lone 3 vs. KU).

Reply 1 comment from Perses Leikness

Get to know competitive K-State before Sunflower Showdown

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber gets heated during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber gets heated during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Not many people around the Big 12 expected much out of Bruce Weber’s Wildcats this season. The league’s coaches picked Kansas State to finish tied for eighth (with TCU) in the preseason poll.

Almost midway through the conference schedule, K-State (13-8 overall, 2-6 Big 12) isn’t blowing people away. The Wildcats enter Wednesday night’s Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse tied for seventh place, with Texas Tech.

While it wouldn’t be accurate to characterize a team four games below .500 in the league as good, a close look at the Wildcats’ results reveals it’s not really fair to say they’re bad, either.

K-State losses, with current kenpom.com ranking of opponent:

- Nov. 24: No. 4 North Carolina, 80-70, at Sprint Center

- Dec. 12: No. 8 Texas A&M, 78-68, in Wichita

- Jan. 2: No. 10 West Virginia, 87-83 2OT

- Jan. 5: at No. 27 Texas, 60-57

- Jan. 9: at No. 1 Oklahoma, 86-76

- Jan. 16: No. 14 Iowa State, 76-63

- Jan. 20: at No. 29 Baylor, 79-72 2OT

- Jan. 26: at No. 10 West Virginia, 70-55

Outside of the 13-point home loss to Iowa State and the 15-point loss in Morgantown, W. Va., K-State (ranked No. 44 in the nation by college hoops math wizard Ken Pomeroy) has played within 10 points or better of some legitimate competition. If the season ended today, every team that beat the Wildcats would easily qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

It is much more difficult to find an impressive victory on Kansas State’s résumé at this point — No. 56 Texas Tech, No. 64 Oklahoma State and No. 80 Georgia qualify as the best three. But it is clear Weber’s players are no pushovers.

Meet the Wildcats the Kansas Jayhawks (17-4, 5-3) will have to shut down in order to keep pace with the rest of the Big 12 in the standings.

KANSAS STATE STARTERS

No. 25 — G/F Wesley Iwundu | 6-7, 210, jr.

Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu gets a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu gets a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • One of the more recognizable Wildcats on a relatively young team, junior Wesley Iwundu leads K-State in scoring (12.2 points per game) and has put up double figures 16 times this season.

  • Iwundu is also one of the team’s better passers (3.0 assists), rebounders (4.9) and defenders (1.0 steals).

  • Averaging 10.9 points in Big 12 games and shooting 45.6%, Iwundu’s 17 points vs. Texas Tech marked his most ever in a league contest.

  • At Baylor, Iwundu came within 3 assists of pulling off a triple-double: 10 points, 10 boards, 7 assists in 45 minutes.

  • Iwundu leads K-State with 79 field goals at the rim, per hoop-math.com. He converts 68.1% of his looks on layups/dunks.

  • Has only hit 2 of 16 attempts from 3-point range (12.5%).

  • Iwundu takes more free throws than any of his teammates, but only shoots 66.3% at the line.

No. 14 — G Justin Edwards | 6-4, 200, sr.

Kansas State guard Justin Edwards (14) shoots in front of Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin (12) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Oklahoma won 86-76. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Kansas State guard Justin Edwards (14) shoots in front of Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin (12) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Oklahoma won 86-76. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Senior Justin Edwards’ 1.9 steals a game lead K-State, and he also contributes 11.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and a team-leading 3.05 assists (1 more dish on the season than Iwundu).

  • In 7 Big 12 games, Edwards has swiped 2 or more steals. He left Oklahoma with 5 takeaways.

  • A better 3-point shooter than fellow vet Iwundu, Edwards isn’t that great, either. Has made 19 from deep on 67 tries (28.4%).

  • Although he plays on the perimeter, Edwards makes a point to get the ball to the paint, and ranks 2nd among Wildcats in field goals at the rim (57). He scores on 60.6% of his layups/dunks.

  • Posted his first career double-double, with 13 points and 10 boards at Texas.

  • K-State tracks hustle plays on its “Play Hard Chart,” which rewards Wildcats for defections, blocks, steals, dives, loose balls, offensive rebounds and charges. Edwards leads the team with 179 play-hard points.

  • Edwards’ 49 offensive boards rank second on the team.

No. 32 — F Dean Wade | 6-10, 225, fr.

None by K-State Athletics

  • A first-year big man from St. John, Kansas, Dean Wade has acclimated well to college basketball, and averages 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for K-State.

  • The 6-10 freshman leads the Wildcats with 52 offensive boards, which he has turned into a team-leading 23 put-backs.

  • Wade is K-State’s best finisher at the rim, making 75.4% of his attempts…

  • … But he can be coaxed into taking 2-point jumpers (13 of 59, 22%) or 3-pointers (14 of 52, 26.9%).

  • Wade is the only true freshman to rank among the top 20 in Big 12 rebounding, as well as the only one in the league to start every game this season.

  • Hit the game-winning jumper with 4.3 seconds left at Georgia, when he scored 16 of his team-high 17 points in the second half.

No. 3 — G Kamau Stokes | 6-0, 170, fr.

None by Bring On The Cats

  • Listed as questionable for the game at KU, freshman guard Kamau Stokes (9.4 points per game) also has caught on quickly at K-State.

  • The Wildcats need Stokes to help stretch opposing defenses. The young, small guard leads the team with 35 made 3-pointers and shoots 34% from deep.

  • Stokes scored a career-high 24 points against UNC and made 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

  • Hit 3 of 6 from deep and scored 20 points at Baylor.

No. 41 — F Stephen Hurt | 6-11, 265, sr.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) battles to get off a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) battles to get off a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

  • The largest man on K-State’s roster, senior Stephen Hurt averages 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 20.0 minutes.

  • However, Hurt doesn’t block many shots (6 this season), get many offensive rebounds (18 in 420 minutes) or shoot a good percentage for a big man (40.3%).

  • Hurt only shoots 53.6% at the rim and has made more 2-point jumpers (23) than layups/dunks (15) this season.

  • Hurt’s numbers have dipped in Big 12 play: 5.6 points, 3.3 rebounds.

  • Hurt will take 3-pointers, but like some of his teammates, he isn’t that dependable: 10 of 36 (27.8%).

KANSAS STATE BENCH

No. 5 — G Barry Brown | 6-3, 195, fr.

None by Big 12 Conference

  • Looking exclusively at Big 12 games, freshman backup Barry Brown leads K-State in scoring, at 11.5 points per game.

  • Since the start of league play, the young guard is shooting 40.2% and logging 25.8 minutes.

  • If Stokes can’t go, look for Brown to step up in the shooting department. With 26 3-pointers this season, he ranks second on the team. Brown has made 34.2% from deep, which leads K-State.

  • Brown’s 23 steals rank 2nd on the team.

No. 4 — F D.J. Johnson | 6-9, 250, jr.

None by K-State Athletics

  • A Wildcat to watch out for on the offensive glass, junior D.J. Johnson averages 2.2 offensive rebounds a game and 4.7 overall in just 18.9 minutes.

  • Johnson’s 22 put-backs rank 2nd on the team and he’s an effective scorer at the rim: 73% shooting on layup/dunk attempts.

  • In K-State’s win over Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Johnson became the sixth different player to lead the team in scoring this season, with 14 points, and also led the Wildcats with 7 boards.

  • Johnson broke his foot against Kentucky in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and missed the 2014-15 season.

  • Averaging 7.2 points in his comeback year, Johnson’s numbers have improved in his past 7 games: 9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 63.9% shooting in 21.7 minutes.

  • The team’s best rim protector, Johnson has 16 blocked shots. Nine of those have come in Big 12 play.

Reply 4 comments from Michael Lorraine Shimsham The_muser

Big 12 notebook: Niang’s role won’t change under new ISU coach

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Kansas City, Missouri — When new Iowa State coach Steve Prohm arrived in Ames, Iowa, he inherited a top-10 quality roster with loads of potential.

In order to maximize the Cyclones’ success in 2015-16, Prohm knew he’d have to completely understand how best to utilize multi-talented senior forward Georges Niang. So the former Murray State coach watched a lot of video from the past few seasons, and figured he might as well call up a Niang expert: his ISU predecessor, Fred Hoiberg.

Given Niang’s success under Hoiberg — 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 40-percent three-point shooting last season — Prohm said Tuesday at Big 12 Basketball Media Day, at Sprint Center, he doesn’t want to wreck a good thing.

“He knows how important he is to this team,” Prohm said of Niang. “I do want to challenge him on the defensive end to become a better rebounder, to rebound out of his area and do some things defensively that we need. But offensively, I don't see it changing at all. I just hope he can even excel it even more.”

Learning the league

None by Big 12 Conference

First-year Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart hasn’t spent too much time considering detailed game plans for the rest of the Big 12. Smart said with the non-conference schedule getting things started, he has focused more on that and establishing a new culture in the first couple weeks of practice.

The former VCU coach admitted, though, there will me an adjustment period for him once league play begins.

“Obviously, the stakes are higher, the crowds are more loud, they're more into the game,” Smart said of road venues he said of conference venues he’ll visit for the first time in 2016. “And certainly, as a new coach in the Big 12, I'm going to have to get to know what this league's all about, particularly on the road.”

Sooners matching experience with youth

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Lon Kruger enters this season with the luxury of returning some of the most talented senior guards in the Big 12 — preseason player of the year Buddy Hield and running mate Isaiah Cousins. But the OU coach won’t hesitate to rely on some freshmen in spots, too.

On the wing, Kruger likes promising, versatile rookies Rashard Odomes (6-foot-6) and Christian James (6-4).

“They're very aggressive, physical on the boards,” the OU coach said of the duo. “They rebound the ball well from the wing. They can score. For incoming freshmen, they've been well-coached. They have a good feel for the game, great enthusiasm for working every day, and the real benefit, too, from having Buddy and Isaiah, from a work ethic standpoint, in the gym all the time. And those guys come in and see what they do and fall in line and they'll benefit from that a great deal, too.”

Don’t poke the Bear

None by Big 12 Conference

As if Baylor forward Rico Gathers wasn’t already enough of an imposing presence on the court, Bears head coach Scott Drew said the 6-foot-8, 275-pound senior has refined his offensive skill set since last season.

Gathers averaged 9.6 points and 10.6 rebounds as a junior, but only made 42.7 percent of his field goals and 57.8 percent of his free throws. As a result, Drew said the big man spent a lot of the offseason in the gymnasium.

“So first and foremost, if he can become a 75-, 80-percent free-throw shooter, his production is going to go way up,” Baylor’s coach said.

“Second thing,” Drew added, “because we have a lot of length in practice, him finishing over length every day is something that will help. His jump shot has improved. It's a lot softer, a lot better rotation.”

Who are these Wildcats?

None by Big 12 Conference

With eight players gone form last season’s roster and seniors Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt, along with junior Wesley Iwundu, the only readily recognizable players left, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber hasn’t lost all hope.

In fact, Weber, whose Wildcats finished 15-17 a year ago, is having fun coaching the mostly overhauled Wildcats.

“They haven't been perfect by any means, but I'd say nine out of the first ten days we just coached them,” Weber said. “We didn't have to beg them to go hard or get after them to go hard, so that makes it a lot easier.

“Now you can worry about the stuff you're supposed to worry about, you know, setting up the angle on the screen, the defense, getting in the right position or how you're going to guard something and you're not wasting as much time.”

No defensive adjustments necessary at WVU

None by Nicole Auerbach

College basketball rules changes dominated much of the discussion at media day, and Bob Huggins — whose West Virginia teams have become known for their assertive defense and pressure — isn’t quite sure yet what to make of the removal of the five-second closely guarded rule.

“I’d like to sit here and give you a very intelligent answer, but obviously I can't. So I don't know,” the WVU said, with a wry grin.

Huggins, whose pants decorated with WVU logos were a hit, said he’ll still ask his guards to defend on the ball with pressure, like always.

“Everybody's going to run a quick-hitter into a ball screen anyways, and that's what everybody did against us for the last 30 years, because we tried to not let people run offense,” Huggins said. “So we ended up guarding ball screens or sprints, and that's what's going to happen. I don't think that changes much.”

Forte can’t do everything

None by Big 12 Conference

There is no question which Cowboy’s name will appear on the proverbial marquee every time Oklahoma State plays this season. However, OSU coach Travis Ford said senior guard Phil Forte III, admittedly a “leading man,” can’t be expected to do it all.

“I think last year we relied way too much on just (LeBryan) Nash and Forte, and that was my fault,” Ford said.

Ultimately, the lack of balance made the Cowboys a less effective team.

“We had a lot of big wins and probably overachieved in a lot of areas,” the OSU coach added of the 18-14 season, “but it caught up to us at the end of the year. It caught up to us.”

Shooters and scorers?

None by TCU Basketball

Often sarcastic in entertaining dealings with the media, TCU coach Trent Johnson didn’t disappoint Tuesday morning at Sprint Center.

When a reporter began a question by referencing Johnson’s team full of shooters and scorers, the coach had to stop him right there.

“My team’s full of good shooters and good scorers this year? I don’t know about that,” Johnson said, straight-faced. “Depends on what practice you’re watching.”

Eventually, the coach admitted the Horned Frogs have some experience — juniors Karviar Shepherd and Chris Washburn enter their third year of contributing — and some nights “the ball goes in.”

He said TCU’s ability to get back on defense and limit opponents’ good scorers and shooters would probably determine how successful a season 2015-16 turns out to be.

Rebuilding Red Raiders

None by Big 12 Conference

Texas Tech hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2009-10. So third-year coach Tubby Smith realizes rebuilding the program won’t be easy in the Big 12.

Smith said the Red Raiders’ annual struggles mean they have to change the culture.

“Although we have great fans and great student support on our campus, and in Lubbock in general, there are a lot of great fans, we still have to continue to grow the program when it comes to recruiting to keep improving,” Smith said, “whether it's facilities or other areas. We know that the competition is stiff no matter where in trying to influence or persuade down the middle to attend the university.”

Reply 3 comments from Zabudda Table_rock_jayhawk Koolkeithfreeze

These guys again: Kansas State

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber looks to grab his players attention during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber looks to grab his players attention during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

By the end of Big Monday, the fans inside Bramlage Coliseum might sound like Bruce Weber. Kansas State’s fan base delights in nothing more than knocking off rival Kansas, and the Jayhawks anticipate a raucous road environment.

The Wildcats (13-15 overall, 6-9 Big 12) will have to embrace and thrive off of all the crazy going on in the stands, because they are in desperate need of a win.

K-State has lost seven of its last eight, including a 68-57 loss at Kansas (22-5, 11-3) on Jan. 31.

There are, of course, more tangible, on-the-court things the Wildcats have at their disposal, too — and they did beat Oklahoma in Manhattan just over a week ago. They might be eighth in the Big 12 standings, but they have a few things they can hang their proverbial hats on.

In conference games, Kansas State is:

  • 3rd in points allowed, 63.1

  • 4th in 3-point FG% defense, 32.8%

  • 1st in rebounds allowed, 31.7 a game

If K-State is able to score a rivalry win, it will have to do it on the defensive end of the floor.

Now, as a refresher, here are the Wildcats that KU will have to worry about inside the famed “Octagon of Doom.”

WILDCATS STARTERS

No. 11 — Nino Williams, 6-5, senior F

Kansas State forward Nino Williams (11) puts a shot over Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State forward Nino Williams (11) puts a shot over Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 4 points, 1/7 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 TOs, 1 block, 1 steal in 22 minutes

Questionable headed into the first Sunflower Showdown of the season, Williams wasn’t at full strength vs. KU in Lawrence.

In 15 Big 12 games this season, he has averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and leads his team with 31 offensive rebounds. Williams is shooting 45.3% from the floor in conference and has proven to be K-State’s best free-throw shooter, hitting 88.4%.

In a poor K-State showing at Baylor this past weekend (69-42 loss), Williams only made 2 of 5 from the floor for 4 points in 22 minutes.

Before that he had 4 straight double-digit outings: 13 vs. Texas, 22 at West Virginia, 13 vs. OU, 14 at TCU.

hoop-math.com update: Williams operates mostly on short- to mid-range offense. 60.7% of his attempts have come on 2-point jumpers. He has hit 56 of 136 (41.2%) in that range, with his percentage dipping over the past few weeks.

No. 42 — Thomas Gipson, 6-7, senior F

Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson (42) puts up a shot over Kansas forward Perry Ellis, right, and forward Cliff Alexander during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson (42) puts up a shot over Kansas forward Perry Ellis, right, and forward Cliff Alexander during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 19 points, 7/13 FGs, 5/7 FTs, 7 rebounds (4 offensive), 0 TOs in 30 minutes

If the guy can get 19 points against Kansas on the road, expect an even bigger night from the senior in his last home game against the Jayhawks.

Gipson averages 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds, while hitting 46.5% of his shots in Big 12 games.

He was the only Wildcat to score in double figures (11 points) at Baylor.

His 4 offensive boards at KU tied his season high, his 7 field goals made still stand as his best this season and his 19 points marked his best scoring performance in conference play.

KU better find a way to keep him off the offensive glass or Gipson might set a handful of new season-best marks.

— hoop-math.com update: Leading K-State in put-backs on offensive rebounds (18), Gipson takes 59.4% of his shots at the rim and converts 67.3% of them (that number has dropped by just under 5 percent since the last game vs. KU).

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

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) fights for a rebound with Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) fights for a rebound with Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu (25) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 4 points, 2/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0/2 FTs, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TOs, 1 block in 29 minutes

Not exactly the biggest scoring threat, the second-year guard averages 5.8 points in the Big 12 while making just 37.2% of his shots, 3 of 11 3-pointers and shooting 68.4% at the foul line.

But he helps K-State get stops, pulls down 3.1 rebounds and ranks second on the team to Jevon Thomas with 2.3 assists a game in the conference.

In two of his more recent games — vs. Oklahoma and at TCU — Iwundu grabbed a combined 8 offensive rebounds. He also had 2 steals as K-State upset OU.

— hoop-math.com update: Of Iwundu’s 133 shot attempts, he only has made 17 away from the rim. So, yeah. KU won’t mind if he settles for jumpers.

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

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) pressures Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas (1) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. In back is Kansas State guard Malek Harris.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) pressures Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas (1) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. In back is Kansas State guard Malek Harris. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 2 points, 1/3 FGs, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 TO, 4 fouls in 23 minutes

The Jayhawks completely shut him down a few weeks ago, but that’s kind of the way things go for Thomas, who hasn’t topped 6 points once in Big 12 play.

Despite playing 27.0 minutes a game since the start of league play, he averages just 3.3 points. Thomas has made just 32.1% of his shot attempts, 2 of 10 3-pointers and even struggles at the foul line — 11-for-26.

At least he leads the Wildcats with 17 steals in 15 games and averages 3.0 assists.

He actually netted his personal Big 12-high of 6 points at Baylor by shooting 3-for-4.

Thomas hasn’t made a 3-pointer since Jan. 27 against West Virginia.

— hoop-math.com update: Thomas has made 42 shots this year, with 26 coming at the rim. He has hit 8 of 25 2-point jumpers (32%) and 8 of 27 3-pointers.

No. 5 — Tre Harris, 6-5, freshman G

— Jan. 31 at KU: Did not play

He’s only played in seven Big 12 games for K-State, but he started the last one, in place of Marcus Foster, who often moves back and forth between inside and outside of Weber’s dog house.

Possibly K-State’s best 3-point shooter, Harris has knocked down 9 of 22 in conference play (40.9%).

He went scoreless in 18 minutes at BU, but has come through with a couple of explosive outings:

  • 4-for-6 on 3-pointers vs. Texas, 12 points

  • 2-for-3 on 3-pointers at TCU, 14 points

On the season, the freshman has connected on 48.7% of his 3-pointers — 19 for 39.

  • — hoop-math.com nugget: Because he has only played in 18 games this season, he ranks ninth on K-State in shot attempts, but when he is on the floor he is — by far — most likely to fire away from deep. That’s where Harris has taken 77.4% of his shots.*

WILDCATS BENCH

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

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) squeezes in for a bucket against Kansas State guard Malek Harris (10) and guard Marcus Foster (2) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) squeezes in for a bucket against Kansas State guard Malek Harris (10) and guard Marcus Foster (2) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 19 points, 7/18 FGs, 3/10 3s, 2/4 FTs, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 TOS, 1 steal in 35 minutes

Will Weber really bring Foster off the bench again? Or will he start the most dynamic player on the roster and ride him in hopes of a marquee win?

Foster played 29 minutes — second-most on the team — in the loss at Baylor, scoring 8 points on 3-for-11 shooting. He missed all 5 of his 3-pointers.

Playing in just 12 conference games and starting only 7, the at-times explosive shooting guard averages 12.8 points in the conference, but has hit just 36.6% of his shots in the league. He’s even worse from 3-point range, connecting on 19 of 68 (27.9%).

Foster has come off the bench in each of his last 3 appearances after being held out of 3 straight games. He had scored 11 or more points in 9 straight games before shooting just 4-for-17 combined in his last 2 appearances.

— hoop-math.com update: As athletic as he is, Foster only takes 20.8% of his shots at the rim. He has hit 30 of those 54 looks (55.6%). Most often, he prefers hoisting 3-pointers — 58.5% of his shots come from downtown.

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

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) pulls up for a three pointer against Kansas State guard Justin Edwards (14) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) pulls up for a three pointer against Kansas State guard Justin Edwards (14) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 0 points, 0/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 TO in 15 minutes

At times a starter, Edwards has come off the bench in 9 of K-State’s Big 12 games, and averages 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds, while making 40% of his shot attempts and hitting 13 of 35 3-pointers (37.1%).

His best recent performance came almost two weeks ago, at West Virginia. In 29 minutes off the bench, Edwards shot 5-for-7, hit both of his 3-pointers and scored 14 points.

— hoop-math.com update: Fourth on the team in FG attempts (160), Edwards has only hit 6 of 21 (28.6%) 2-point jumpers. He prefers getting to the rim: 38 for 78 (48.7%).

No. 41 — Stephen Hurt, 6-11, junior F

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) battles to get off a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) battles to get off a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 31 at KU: 6 points, 2/3 FGs, 2/2 3s, 2 rebounds, 2 TOs, 1 block in 10 minutes

You really have to take note of every big body an opponent can throw at Kansas, because the Jayhawks have had so many issues on the offensive glass and finishing against size.

Plus, when you consider Hurt caught KU bigs off guard in the first meeting by knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, he seems even more important to what K-State is trying to accomplish.

He only plays 12.1 minutes a game in the league, and averages 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds. And he has only made 37.5% of his shots. Hurt has taken 6 3-pointers in league games and he hit 3 of them.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Just 34.1% of his attempts come at the rim, but he makes 70% there. 52.3% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, where he makes 30.4% — that number has fallen by nearly 7 percent in the past three-plus weeks.

Reply 2 comments from Dirk Medema

Getting to know Kansas State

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

None by Collegian - Sports

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%.

Reply

Jayhawks preparing to battle respected rivals from K-State

Kansas forward Landen Lucas battles for a loose ball with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Also pictured are TCU Horned Frogs forward Chris Washburn (33) and Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34).

Kansas forward Landen Lucas battles for a loose ball with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Also pictured are TCU Horned Frogs forward Chris Washburn (33) and Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34). by Nick Krug

Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team found ways to win both of its past two games in the Lone Star State — even if that one at TCU became a struggle late.

Now Self and the Jayhawks can put their successes behind them and focus on what’s next. The coach met with the media Friday afternoon, before No. 9 Kansas (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big 12) plays two huge games at Allen Fieldhouse — Saturday against Kansas State (12-9, 5-3) and on Big Monday against Iowa State (15-4, 5-2).

Here are some of the highlights from the press conference:

K-State is much improved in Big 12 play, and those are the games Self has studied. Usually when you go through rough spots it’s when you labor to score. Their offense is flowing better and Nino Williams and Marcus Foster are playing well. The Wildcats are 5-3 in a great league.

Williams might be injured and unavailable Saturday. As a fan of the game and a fan of his, Self would hope everybody plays.

Foster was aggressive last year, but in the games Self has studied he seems even more aggressive now — splitting ball screens, making guarded shots and the like. He’ll get plenty of attention from KU, and the Jayhawks did that last year, too. Kansas did a better job guarding him in Allen Fieldhouse last season than it did in Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is fouled on his way to the bucket while defended by TCU Horned Frogs forward Devonta Abron (23) and guard Trey Zeigler (32) during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is fouled on his way to the bucket while defended by TCU Horned Frogs forward Devonta Abron (23) and guard Trey Zeigler (32) during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

Self told Landen Lucas, Svi Mykhailiuk and Hunter Mickelson prior to the TCU game they always need to be ready to play. He didn’t know the Jayhawks would have to count so much on them. All three of them played well in spurts in that game to help KU win. Guys will get an opportunity to play and need to stay ready. Lucas will be good enough to be a starter at Kansas — that’s his next step in his progression as a player. Every coach would like to have eight or nine guys who are good enough to start.

Next year the Big 12-SEC Challenge will be at the end of January. Self thinks the challenge is good for the league, but the timing is bad. It will bring exposure to the league, which is good. There is so much competition in the world of sports in December they decided to move it. This will be different. It’s fine, but it’s certainly not the best.

Sophomore point guard Frank Mason III didn’t do great at TCU, but he did a good job on Kyan Anderson, who can really score. Self hopes the team has multiple leaders, but Mason is the guy everybody knows needs to be on the court.

The way KU has gotten to this point as a team is a little different than what Self anticipated. The Jayhawks aren’t far off from where he’d like them to be, it just hasn’t been a smooth road getting to this point.

Kelly Oubre Jr. “was out of it” at TCU, because he wasn’t feeling well. They could tell he didn’t feel well at all, and that had a lot to do with his lack of production.

KU doesn’t have any separation yet in the Big 12 title race. When KU has been behind two games late in the season, there has been pressure on them. He doesn’t know how much pressure other teams feel right now, with Kansas at the top of the standings alone. But there is no separation yet.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden floats into the lane for a shot before Kansas State defenders Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden floats into the lane for a shot before Kansas State defenders Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

KU’s players know K-State’s players. They work with each other at camps in the summer and that sort of thing. They are rivals, but they are respected rivals. Missouri was a more hated rival.

K-State has had enough success vs. Kansas of late, the Jayhawks definitely think of the Wildcats as formidable rivals.

Everybody likes waking up in the morning disliking somebody, from that standpoint it hasn’t been great to lose one of your longtime rivals. KU is fortunate and glad to have K-State around as a rival.

Kansas has played a lot of close games, and up until the TCU game the Jayhawks had been good at the free-throw line late. You have to win some games where you don’t play well — the players must be taking that to heart, Self joked.

• Self pays attention to successful NFL coaches, but probably more so in the regular season than the week of the Super Bowl. You have to get your guys’ heads right. That’s a part of it as much as X’s and O’s.

Given the TCU performance, Self would like to see better energy every single game out of his players. Some games it hasn’t been there. You get to defensive position half a step late when you don’t have the mental energy and approach you need. KU can make some mistakes and make up for it with athletic ability when energy is there.

• Wayne Selden Jr. can play better, and Selden knows that. Every player can play a lot better, too. Even Mason and Ellis. KU isn’t going to play great every night. The Jayhawks are young and sometimes people forget how young they are. Selden just needs to see some shots that haven’t been going in fall through the hoop.

When the Chicago Bulls went 72-10, there were a lot of nights they didn’t play well but they had a guy who could bail them out. Everybody struggles with maintaing a high level of play. KU has done a decent job with it. When there are less great players and more good players the playing field gets leveled out.

— Listen to the entire press conference: Bill Self talks Sunflower Showdown rivalry and absence of Missouri

Reply 2 comments from Surrealku Onlyoneuinkansas

Getting reacquainted with Kansas State

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

Since the last time Kansas University's men's basketball team faced in-state rival Kansas State — an easy home victory for the Jayhawks — Bruce Weber's Wildcats have gone 4-3.

Though K-State (16-7 overall, 6-4 Big 12) dropped all three of its road games in that stretch — at Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia — things went much better at Bramlage Coliseum, site of tonight's Sunflower Showdown with No. 7 Kansas (18-5, 9-1). The Wildcats beat Oklahoma, WVU Texas Tech and Texas at home.

Tied for 4th place in the Big 12 standings with ISU, K-State just dismantled the league's second-place team, Texas, 74-57, at "The Octagon of Doom" on Saturday.

Check out the highlights from ESPN:


Currently on a 12-game home winning streak, the Wildcats have thrived on their home floor with three wins over top 25 teams this season. Going back even farther, they've defeated eight of their last 11 ranked opponents at Bramlage.

In Big 12 play, Weber's Wildcats lead the conference in scoring defense (67.0). They're second in field goal percentage (45.9%, behind KU's 51.7%), field goal percentage defense (40.1%, behind KU's 40%) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.26, behind ISU's 1.6). K-State is third in three-point field goal percentage defense (33.3%) and assists (15.1)

For a group that is solid defensively, the Wildcats don't create many turnovers, though. They're 5.0 steals a game average is dead last in the Big 12.

K-State has scored 70 or more points in 10 of the last 14 games, including six times in Big 12 play. But, obviously, that didn't happen on Jan. 11 in Lawrence, when KU handled the Wildcats, 86-60.

There also is the matter of K-State's perpetual struggles with the Jayhawks. KU has won six in a row in the series, 13 of the last 14 and 48 of the last 51. Kansas is 187-91 all-time against K-State.

The Wildcats' last victory over Kansas came on Valentine's Day in 2011, 84-68, in Manhattan.

Let's get reacquainted with K-State's top players, whom KU will have to once again shut down to prevent a rare Sunflower Showdown win fro the 'Cats.

Marcus Foster, No. 2

6-2, 200, fr. guard

Kansas State guard Marcus Foster (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas State guard Marcus Foster (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 7 points, 3-12 FGs, 0-3 3s, 1-4 FTs, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers, 3 fouls in 23 minutes.

Crazily enough, only one Wildcat scored double digits against Texas this past weekend. Well, maybe it's not so crazy, considering Foster had 34 by himself.

The dangerously explosive young guard only missed 3 of his 16 shots and nailed 5 of 8 three-pointers on his career afternoon.

For some perspective, he became the fifth K-State freshmen ever to score 30 or more points and the first since Michael Beasley.

Foster's effort marked the first 30-point game for a Wildcat since Jacob Pullen went for 38 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The freshman struggled in his first visit to Allen Fieldhouse, going 3-for-12. Perhaps the road environment overwhelmed him a bit. Surely KU's defense had a lot to do with his seven-point performance, too. But expect Foster eager to produce up to his standards — 14.7 points — or better in the rematch.

His 50 three-pointers and 134 attempts from deep lead the team

Thomas Gipson, No. 42

6-7, 265, jr. forward

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 10 points, 5-7 FGs, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers.

The most productive member of the frontcourt, the junior leads K-State in field goal percentage (58%) and rebounding (6.5 boards a game).

Gipson scores 11.7 points a game and has led the Wildcats in scoring seven times this season.

He scored 10 points against Kansas in Lawrence, earning the distinction of being the only starter to reach double digits.

Defensively, Gipson only averages 0.5 blocks a game but he leads K-State with 12 charges drawn.

Shane Southwell, No. 1

6-7, 215, sr. gaurd

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 9 points, 4-8 FGs, 0-1 3s, 1-1 FTs, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover.

The third scoring option for K-State, the senior guard finds other ways to make an impact, too. Southwell averages 3.1 assists a game and 1.1 blocks.

Throw in 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 10.7 points and you've got a nice complimentary piece for a defensive-minded team.

Southwell will take three-pointers (96 attempts this season), but he has only made 28.1% from behind the arc.

Will Spradling, No. 55

6-2, 185, sr. guard

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 6 points, 2-6 FGs, 0-4 3s, 2-2 FTs, 2 rebounds.

He's been playing regular minutes for K-State since he was a freshman (95 career starts), so you know the drill. The guy is primarily a three-point shooter — 73% of the 136 shots Spradling has taken this season have come behind the three-point line.

Of the 99 threes the senior shooter has hoisted, 36 have dropped through the net (36.4%).

Spradling averages 7.8 points a game. He passes out 2.6 assists and has only turned the ball over 15 times in 665 minutes this season.

In his last five games, he's averaging 11.0 points an outing.

Wesley Iwundu, No. 25

6-7, 195, fr. forward

Kansas guard Perry Ellis and Kansas State guard Wesley Iwundu battle for a rebound during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Perry Ellis and Kansas State guard Wesley Iwundu battle for a rebound during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 4 points, 1-2 FGs, 2-2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 block.

An accurate shooter at 49.1% in his freshman season, Iwundu averages 7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Because he spends more time battling in the paint than any other Wildcat, the 6-7 forward leads the team with 81 free throw attempts. But he only shoots 65.4% at the foul line.

Against Texas, Iwundu scored eight points and had season-highs with eight assists and three steals.

K-State bench

Jevon Thomas, No. 5

6-0, 180, fr. guard

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins battles for a rebound with Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins battles for a rebound with Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 9 points, 2-7 FGs, 1-1 3s, 4-6 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 turnovers in 28 minutes.

The freshman guard has shown real potential but he didn't become eligible until the 12th game of the season, so he has had his ups and downs while adjusting to life in the Big 12.

Thomas plays more minutes (21.3) than any other member of K-State's bench. However, those numbers are on a downward trend, with Weber playing him just 11 minutes against West Virginia and three against Texas.

He is closer to a true point guard than anyone else on the roster, and dishes 3.3 assists a game to go with 3.5 points.

Nino Williams, No. 11

6-5, 220, jr. forward

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

— Jan. 11 vs. KU: 12 points, 4-5 FGs, 4-4 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover in 17 minutes.

The backup forward has carved a niche for himself on the second unit, averaging 6.9 points in his last 14 games (5.6 on the season).

With most of his shots coming inside, Williams shoots 51.7% from the floor. His 76% free-throw shooting leads the team — he's even better than Spradling (71.7%).

Williams has scored double digits four times in 10 Big 12 games, and led the Wildcats' struggling offense at KU, with 12 points.

Almost half of his 3.0 rebounds a game come on the offensive end of the floor.

Reply 1 comment from Mark Anderson Alex Farris