Texas-Kansas St. Preview
Looking to avoid their longest losing streak in four years, the 18th-ranked Wildcats hope to get back on track at the expense of the Longhorns on Wednesday night.
Kansas State (15-4, 4-2 Big 12) had won eight straight games including their first four in conference play before falling 59-55 at home to then-No. 3 Kansas last Tuesday. The Wildcats followed with a 73-67 defeat Saturday at Iowa State, marking their first loss to an unranked opponent this season.
"Now we had a reality smack," said first-year coach Bruce Weber, whose team also lost to current No. 1 Michigan on Nov. 23 and current No. 7 Gonzaga on Dec. 15. "We've got to get back to where we were and do the things that we did well to give us a chance."
The Wildcats fell to 1-4 when getting outrebounded and forced only 10 turnovers, 4.5 below their season average. Good defense has been a staple of Weber's team, allowing a Big 12-low 58.2 points per game.
"The things that made us good for most of the season is that we guarded and out-toughed and outplayed people," Weber said.
Another defeat Wednesday would saddle Kansas State with its worst slide since dropping four in a row Jan. 10-21, 2009.
"We'll be fine. We're going to compete at a high level," guard Shane Southwell said.
The Longhorns remained upbeat despite dropping their first five conference games, then earned a 73-57 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday. That ended the longest losing streak of coach Rick Barnes' 15-year tenure at Texas (9-10, 1-5).
"We aren't a losing team, so we don't prepare to lose," said guard Julien Lewis, who scored a season high-tying 18 points Saturday. "From now on, we just have to keep winning."
Though the Longhorns rank ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in both shooting percentage (40.9) and points per game (64.4) while committing a conference-worst average of 15.8 turnovers, their defense has been solid. They rank second in the nation behind Kansas in field-goal percentage defense (35.3) and are tops in the country in 3-point defense (25.1).
Texas, though, is 0-4 in true road games and knows it will have its hands full against a Kansas State team that is 11-1 at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats have won each of the last two meetings there, including a 71-62 victory over No. 1 Texas on Jan. 18, 2010.
"We're playing them at home, so I think we still need to go out and play and worry about ourselves in that regard - focus on what we can control," associate head coach Rob Lanier said. "We believe that we belong (among the top teams in the conference). It's just a matter of maturing to a level where we really understand and do what it takes to win."
Texas won the last meeting 75-64 on Feb. 11, holding Kansas State leading scorer Rodney McGruder to 11 points and ending a three-game losing streak in the series.
McGruder, though, scored a career-high 33 in an 84-80 win in the most recent matchup in Manhattan on Jan. 18, 2012. He's been held to 13 in each of the last two games after averaging 19.6 during the Wildcats' eight-game win streak.
"McGruder is a quiet assassin," Lanier said. "No matter how he has played for the first 35 minutes, at the end of the game, he is a guy that you need to worry about and those are the guys scare me."