Oklahoma St.-Kansas St. Preview

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.