And earlier this week, KU saw its eight-game winning steak end when Missouri rallied and nipped the ‘Hawks 62-60 in Columbia.
Kansas will look to start a new winning streak and a new streak in
Manhattan on Saturday as the Jayhawks (19-5, 8-1 Big 12) battle K-State
(17-7, 6-4) in the Sunflower Showdown.
The Valentine's Day tipoff is 2:30 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum on ABC.
Frank Martin's Wildcats are on a roll, winning six straight, including
two overtime thrillers at Texas and Colorado and an impressive 65-60
upset at Texas A&M last Saturday. KSU is coming off an 85-73
victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday in Manhattan. Senior center Darren Kent led the Wildcats with 18 points as K-State outrebounded the Red
KSU is a much improved team from a month ago, when the Wildcats fell to
Kansas, 87-71, on Jan. 13 in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks shot a then
season-high 58.3 percent from the field while limiting K-State to just
39.1 percent shooting. KU started the game 18-0 and held off a
second-half rally to pull away.
Sherron Collins led KU with 24 points, while Tyshawn Taylor added 20.
Sophomore guard Jacob Pullen paced KSU with 13 points, followed by
junior center Luis Colon with 12 and freshman forward Jamar Samuels
with 11. The Wildcats outrebounded KU 37-34.
The Jayhawks know it will be more difficult this time in hostile
Bramlage Coliseum. KU coach Bill Self called last year's game in
Manhattan one of the best road crowds since he's been at Kansas.
"The atmosphere in Bramlage last year was unbelievable," Self said. "It
was terrific, and it will be that good this year."
The Wildcats pose many problems for Kansas.
"I think they are guarding really, really hard," Self said. "Of course,
I always think K-State guards hard. They just seem to be a little bit
more fluid offensively than what they were the first time we played
them. That's in large part due to Denis Clemente playing with a lot of
confidence. We did a good job for the most part on him (Clemente had
just nine points on 3 of 13 shooting) and Pullen the first time. Not
great, but a pretty good job. Those guys are really playing at a high
level right now."
K-State is indeed getting great play from junior guard Clemente and
Pullen. Clemente, who had a show for the ages with a career-high 44
points versus Texas on Jan. 31, leads the team at 14.3 points per game.
Pullen is next in scoring at 13.6 ppg, followed by sophomore guard Fred Brown (9.2 ppg), Kent (9.2 ppg), Samuels (9.0 ppg), sophomore guard
Dominique Sutton (7.8 ppg), Colon (5.3 ppg), and sophomore forward Ron Anderson (4.8 ppg).
Those eight players average at least 18.5 minutes per game, while
junior guard Buchi Awaji averages 2.8 points in 9.2 minutes per game.
KSU won't be bashful about shooting the three ball with Brown, Clemente
and Pullen all attempting over 100 treys this season. Brown is shooting
a lethal 45 percent from beyond the arc, followed by Clemente at 38.5
percent and Pullen and Kent at 33.3 percent each.
The Wildcats only shoot 44.2 percent from the field, but average 76.9
points while holding foes to 65.4 ppg and 40.9 percent shooting.
K-State is a strong rebounding team, holding a 39.5 to 32.8 edge on the
glass. KSU has five players averaging at least 4.8 rebounds per game,
led by Kent at 5.9 rpg.
Clemente is obviously a huge key for Martin's Wildcats. Self knows the
6-0 guard can't get loose in transition.
"We can use more than one person to guard him in transition," Self
said. "That is something that is very important. We can make sure that
when we shoot the ball, we're not standing. We need to be getting to
our assigned spots. ... So we're going to have to be very conscious in
transition defense, probably more so than we were when we played them
here, because teams usually play a little bit faster at home."
With the rabid K-State fans at full force, Kansas will have to limit
its turnovers and not get sped up. The Jayhawks committed 27 turnovers
"We have to do a better job of getting a shot and not wasting
possessions," Self said. "The other night, of our 27 turnovers, at
least 15 of them were self-induced turnovers."
"If we could average fewer than 13 turnovers a game, I would be pretty
pleased with that," Self added.
This Sunflower Showdown is almost a must-win game for Kansas to keep
its Big 12 championship hopes alive. The Jayhawks trail Oklahoma (10-0)
by one game with a battle with the Sooners looming in Norman on Feb. 23.
"I think the way that OU is playing, our margin for error is almost
nil, as it would be for everybody else," Self said. "To win the league
after falling behind and one of your remaining road games is at their
place, it puts a lot of pressure on winning there. Our goal is to win
the league, and it will be every year. But anybody going two games down
to OU, I think it would be difficult to come back from. Not impossible,
but certainly difficult based on how they are playing right now."
Of course, Self and his Jayhawks won't be thinking about OU on
Saturday. They know they have to take care of business and beat KSU.
The ‘Hawks certainly don't want the Wildcats fans jumping over press
row and storming the court like they did last year.
"The plan is not to lose," said junior forward Mario Little.
"We don't want to turn one (loss) into two," Taylor added about the MU
game. "We got to play real hard and just get a ‘W.'"
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