Battle with the Big Red

Kansas State hasn't won a road game since 2001 in the conference -- 19 games and counting. They haven't won on the road this season at all, with losses to Saint Louis and Missouri-Kansas City among the toll. Thankfully, tonight's game isn't on the road.

Instead, Nebraska (11-6, 1-5) comes to Bramlage Coliseum trying to break the tide of unfavorable momentum. The Huskers won 10 of their first 11 games before entering league play, where they have since lost five of their last six games. Their only win in that stretch was a 76-47 home-pounding of lowly Baylor.

But a struggling Huskers team might be exactly what the Wildcats (9-8, 1-5) need after losing seven of their last nine, including Saturday night's second-half meltdown at Missouri. Kansas State's only success this season has come at home, where the Cats are 9-2 with win over Missouri Valley-favorite Wichita State and Big 12 Conference foe Texas A&M.

But to start a successful stretch which includes games against unranked Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa State, the Wildcats must get better at simply shooting the ball. Kansas State hasn't shot better than 42 percent from the field since beating Savannah State, which includes a 34-percent performance against the Tigers last Saturday. The only production came from Jarrett Hart, who hit three 3-pointers on a 7-of-16 night.

"We're playing hard," Hart said. "But with our team it's always something. We just need to be consistent. We're a competitive bunch and I think we're going to bounce back. Like I've been saying all along, any given night anybody can be your leading scorer."

Kansas State has had six leading scorers this season, but none have exploded for more than 23 points in a game. Much of that lends itself to the much-beleagured rotation Coach Jim Wooldridge uses, often substituting four and five players at once, changing lineups with nearly every clock stoppage.

Ten players are averaging more than 10 minutes per game, and two more players log more than five minutes per game. While that keeps players fresh, the Wildcats have at times struggled to find momentum or get in synch. Against Missouri, the Wildcats went nearly five minutes in the first half without scoring, during which time five substitutions were made.

But those efforts, Wooldridge said, are simply a way of trying to find answers for lack of offensive production and often-suspect defense.

"This is a team that is yet to put together a complete game in our league," he said. "We haven't done that. We have lots of questions to answer and this is the absolute worst time of the year to have to answer questions. But that's the way it is right now."

But in a way, Nebraska is much like the Wildcats. They have been nearly abysmal on the road at 1-5, and have also struggled to find offensive production. Just one projected starter, 6-foot-8 forward Andrew Drevo, averages more than 10 points per game (10.8). Both teams average exactly 69.1 points, both make their living from beyond the 3-point line, both have a +6.5 rebound margin and both teams turn the ball over 15 times per game.

Dez Willingham, a 5-foot-10 freshman, is expected to get the start over Frank Richards for the third consecutive game. Prior to Kansas, Richards had started 45 consecutive games since transferring to Kansas State. Also expected to get more minutes is Cartier Martin, another freshman from Texas, who has battled injuries after missing games early in the season for receiving improper benefits while in high school. He returned against KU, played more against Missouri, but has yet to explode like he did early in the season, when he scored 19 points against Saint Louis.

"Hopefully I can go a little more and contribute to my team a little bit more," Martin said.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Nebraska (11-6, 1-5)

G 1 Jason Dourisseau So. 6.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg
G 3 Charles Richardson Fr. 2.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg
G 12 Jake Muhleisen Jr. 8.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg
F 44 John Turek Jr. 8.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg
F 50 Andrew Drevo 10.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Kansas State (9-8, 1-5)

G 10 Dez Willingham Fr. 5.0 ppg, 3.3 apg
G 11 Tim Ellis Sr. 12.3 pg, 5.7 rpg
G 30 Jarrett Hart Sr. 10.6 ppg, 3.4 apg
F 15 Jeremiah Massey Jr. 12.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg
F 21 Dramane Diarra Jr. 2.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg


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