Oklahoma St.-Kansas St. Preview

Nearly seven weeks ago, then-No. 10 Kansas State couldn’t

contain Oklahoma State guard James Anderson while getting upset at

home by the unranked Cowboys.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats will get a second chance to try to

slow down Anderson as they try to avoid another early exit in the

Big 12 tournament in Thursday’s quarterfinals in Kansas City.

Kansas State (24-6) got off to its best start since 1961-62 by

winning 16 of its first 18 games, but Anderson lit up the Wildcats

for 30 points on their home floor in a 73-69 victory Jan. 23 – the

Cowboys’ first road win over a top 10 team in 52 years.

Anderson, recently named Big 12 player of the year, comes into

the conference tournament as the nation’s third-leading scorer with

22.9 points per game. He registered at least 25 points in 17 games

while leading his team to a 21-9 mark.

Anderson missed seven of 11 shots in Wednesday night’s

tournament opener, but Oklahoma State still managed to beat rival

Oklahoma 81-67.

While his high-profile teammate scored just 11 points, sophomore

guard Keiton Page tallied 24 with five 3-pointers, going 7 of 10

from the field. Obi Muonelo added 15 points for his eighth straight

game in double figures.

“I don’t want to say the first game is always the toughest

because now we have to play Kansas State,” coach Travis Ford said.

“But it’s good to get the first one out of the way.”

The Wildcats, meanwhile, enter the tournament after suffering

back-to-back losses for the first time this season. They suffered a

disheartening 85-82 overtime defeat at home against lowly Iowa

State on Saturday.

Leading scorer and first team All-Big 12 selection Jacob Pullen

(18.9 ppg) had a team-best 27 points but missed 14 of his 20 shots.

Kansas State finished with its second-worst shooting performance of

the season at 34.3 percent.

Pullen, who has scored in double figures in every game this

season, was 2 of 15 while scoring 11 points against Oklahoma State.

Second team All-Big 12 guard Denis Clemente had 19 points against

the Cowboys as the Wildcats shot 35.6 percent.

“We lost three home games. That’s who we are,” said Kansas State

coach Frank Martin, who signed a contract extension through 2014-15

on Sunday. “We’re not a championship-level team in the Big 12

because we can’t win at home.”

Despite dropping its season finale and falling into a three-way

tie for the runner-up spot, Kansas State managed to hold on to the

tournament’s second seed. It marked the fourth straight season the

Wildcats earned a bye into the Big 12 quarterfinals, but that

hasn’t proved an advantage in the past two tournaments.

Kansas State fell 61-58 to Texas in last season’s opener and

lost 63-60 to Texas A&M in its initial game in 2007-08 –

Martin’s first season leading the program.

The Wildcats are trying to reach 25 wins for the first time

since 1987-88, when they advanced to the NCAA regional finals, but

they’re 2-12 against the Cowboys since Big 12 play began in

1996-97.

All but assured of returning to the NCAA tournament for the

second time in three seasons, Kansas State is searching for its

first conference tournament title since 1980. Oklahoma State seems

to be headed toward its second straight national tournament but

would clinch that bid with its third Big 12 tournament title in

seven years.

Since winning their last championship in 2005, the Cowboys have

advanced to the semifinals twice. They won two games last season

before falling to eventual champion Missouri.

The winner of this game will face Baylor or Texas in Friday

night’s semifinals.