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"Sunflower Showdown" Time

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Allen Fieldhouse. Historic Allen Fieldhouse.

It's where Kansas State has not won a game since 2006 - Remember, even coach Jim Wooldridge exclaimed afterward, "Can you believe it?" - and not since 1994 before that has a Wildcat team won in Lawrence.

Oh, Kansas can lose in its storied facility, in fact they did last Saturday to Texas, 74-63. But one has to go back into the 1980s to find the last time that a KU team lost two in a row on its home Jayhawk floor.

That's where 2-4, 14-7 Kansas State and 4-1, 19-1 and No. 6 Kansas will play at 6 p.m., this evening on ESPN.

"It's the loudest building I've ever played in. Its way different than any place else," said K-State junior Jamar Samuels. "It feels like the crowd is breathing on your neck. They know the name of your parents, and what you're going to name your grandchildren. It's tough, but fun."

Senior Jacob Pullen has enjoyed 20-point games in Allen, but as he says, "It doesn't matter because I've never won in Allen.

"Most fans don't like you because you're playing them this week," said Pullen. "Kansas fans don't like you, period."

As for what he can tell freshmen teammates like Will Spradling and Shane Southwell, Pullen said, "I can't tell them anything. It's something you have to learn on your own. I don't want to scare them, but I don't want to let them think it will be easy. It's a place like I've never seen before, but you can't let the crowd make you do things you don't normally do."

Freshman Will Spradling, a Kansas Citian, said he watched a KU-MU game in Allen Fieldhouse while in high school, and admits, "It's loud. There's nothing like it."

Coach Frank Martin admits that the thought of how his two freshmen will handle the atmosphere has crossed his mind, and added, "We just need to make sure that the upperclassmen help the young kids get through the early portion of the game."

If handling the Allen Fieldhouse atmosphere is one key, here are several others:
1) Staying in the Game Early: Frank Martin is 0-3 in Allen Fieldhouse having lost games by 14, 16 and 17 points. "We put ourselves in a hole from the word go," Martin said of the games. "The first year Mike (Beasley) and Bill (Walker) each had two fouls in the first two minutes; the following year we got down 18-0 and needed more than a couple touchdowns and a field goal to get back in it; and, last year we didn't dig a very big hole, but we were always going uphill. They're good everywhere, but they're really good at home."
Martin added,  "First, they are well coached and have good players, but it's also so loud in there that it tends to get you playing fast on offense and rush shots."

2) Limit Turnovers: "We have to stay the course and not make dumb turnovers," said Samuels

3) Rebound, Defend: "Rebounding and transition defense," said Pullen. "We can't allow easy buckets.

To Martin, K-State is starting to play, well, K-State basketball. The Wildcat coach was pleased with the play in the loss to Texas A&M a week ago, which was followed with a victory over Baylor.

To the Wildcat coach, K-State is playing a better brand of inside-outside basketball.

Reciting figures given to him by assistant coach Matt Figger, Martin said, "We lead the country in offensive rebounding and we're in the top 10 in free throws attempted. We're also near the top in 3-pointers attempted and made. That all means we're pressuring the rim and getting perimeter shots."

But Kansas has an inside-outside game of its own with the junior Morris twins - Marcus (6-9) and Markieff (6-10) - who are averaging 17.0 and 12.7, respectively, plus getting just over 30 points from the starting guard trio of Josh Selby, Tyrel Reed and Tyshawn Taylor.

"The twins can both post up, but also step out and shoot it, and can dribble-drive to score," said Martin. "Then they have other guys who have been in their system for a long time. They have some grown men out there."

And then on defense, as assistant coach Brad Underwood says, they're as good as they come.

"They don't quite have the size as last year, so they approach things a little differently, but Bill always throws in a box-and-one and triangle-and-two at times," said Underwood. "They're just very, very solid."