Men, women set for Big 12 battles

Its been a tale of two seasons for the two different Wildcat basketball teams, and at no time was it more evident than in last weekend's contests.

The men kicked things off looking for their first Big 12 road win since playing Colorado in 2001, but for the second-straight time against the Buffaloes, a last-second basket sunk the Wildcats in Boulder. After a desperate comeback in the final minutes -- taking the lead with just 10.2 seconds remaining -- Colorado drove the length of the court for the go-ahead basket. A halfcourt heave with no time left missed, and Kansas State fell to 10-8 and 2-6 in the league.

But while the Wildcats have been positively disgusting on the road, the homecourt advantage is not simply a moniker when it comes to Kansas State. The Cats are 10-2 in Bramlage Coliseum and welcome an Iowa State (13-6, 4-4) team that is coming off an 88-67 loss to Oklahoma State last weekend. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Iowa State has been the upstart of the Big 12 this season, despite losing two of its last three. Led by first-year coach and former Larry Eustachy assitant Wayne Morgan, the Cyclones bring a completely different look to Manhattan than last season.

Freshman Curtis Stinson and fellow freshman Will Blalock have been stalwarts in the starting rotation all season. Stinson leads all Big 12 freshman in scoring at 15.1 ppg, and his play reminds many of former Cyclone great Jammal Tinsley, who, like Stinson, also hailed from the Bronx. Blalock averages nearly nine points per game from the point. But despite the stellar play of Stinson and Blalock, the guiding for what seems like an eternity has been guard Jake Sullivan, the 3-point sharpshooter from Minneapolis. It was Sullivan who helped lead the Cyclones to the Elite 8 as a freshman, and the senior is averaging more than 14 ppg despite being shadowed all game.

The Cyclones will also be without Marcus Jefferson, a former starter who is battling personal issues. That leaves Iowa State with a rotation that will likely feature only six or seven players.

Kansas State, meanwhile, continued its liberal substition against Colorado and are expected to do so again Wednesday.

Dez Willingham is expected to get the start over senior Frank Richards, who had a breakthrough performance against Colorado, and junior Marques Hayden is expected to start in place of Drammane Diarra despite rumored tension between Hayden and Coach Jim Wooldridge.

The women, meanwhile, will travel the short trip down I-70 for a 7 p.m. contest with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Wildcats are coming off an impressive 79-53 blasting of then-No. 11 Colorado, a game which was supposed to be televised nationally but was seen only in the second half due to a triple-overtime game in Houston. Still, the numbers that leaked out of Bramlage from that win struck a chord across the country, catapulting the Wildcats into second in the Big 12.

"They're disciplined," Colorado coach Ceal Barry said after the game. "They don't make mistakes. They read the defense well, read one-another well. They're not going to beat themselves. You can't count on them giving you a little edge here and there."

But if Kansas (9-11, 2-7) wants any chance to upset the No. 9 Wildcats, they may need that little edge. Thirty-one-year coach Marian Washington took a medical leave of absence earlier this season and the Jayhawks have struggled under interim coach Lynette Woodward. Kansas has lost seven of its last eight games, including a 79-50 decision in Manhattan on Jan. 17.

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