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Wildcats Take on Ole Miss in Big 12-SEC Challenge
December 4, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
K-State men's basketball returns to Bramlage Coliseum on Dec. 5 to host one of the biggest non-conference opponents it's seen at home in the past three years - the SEC's undefeated Ole Miss Rebels.
A night filled with action and excitement, tonight's game tips off at 8 p.m., and will be aired before a national audience on ESPN2.
"It'll be a big game for us, a game to get the preseason turned around," senior guard Will Spradling said. "We had a rocky start, but we should have a good home crowd tomorrow and a good home court advantage."
K-State men's hoops has not seen a preconference matchup on its home soil of this much weight since it defeated the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies, 73-57, in Bramlage Coliseum in November of 2010.
The Rebels (6-0) are coming off a close 79-76 win over Penn State in which the team was led by junior guard Jarvis Summers with 19 points. Summers is the Rebels' leading scorer at 15.7 points per game. Following Summers in scoring is sophomore guard Derrick Millinghaus and the aggressive senior guard, Marshall Henderson, averaging 15.3 and 15.2 points per game, respectively.
Henderson, the Rebels' tough and spirited point guard known for his ability to sink tricky shots, was the SEC's leading scorer last season and, coming into Bramlage Coliseum, isn't expected to hold anything back.
"They take crazy shots - Marshall Henderson (takes crazy shots)," junior forward Thomas Gipson said. "We've just got to play team defense. Their bigs are good. I've got to be good. We all have a challenge and we've just got to step up to it."
During the month of December, select Big 12 men's basketball teams will take on an SEC opponent in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.
On Dec. 2, Iowa State defeated Auburn (99-70) and Texas defeated Vanderbilt (70-64). Along with the Wildcats' matchup against Ole Miss on Dec. 5, West Virginia will take on Missouri and TCU will take on Mississippi State, while Oklahoma State vs. South Carolina and Baylor vs. Kentucky will take place on Dec. 6. Finally, Kansas will take on Florida in the season's final Big 12-SEC Challenge game on Dec. 10.
"It's a good thing. It's a challenge and you've got to play these good teams somewhere, so I'm glad this year it's at home," head coach Bruce Weber said about playing a team from the SEC. "It's a fun thing. If your conference can do well, it's obviously a positive. There's no doubt all the wins help the individual teams, but it also helps the league because we're putting together a league RPI which in the long run sticks with you the rest of the year."
The past four years the Wildcats have taken on the SEC's Florida and Alabama (2009 and 2011 against Alabama, while 2010 and 2012 were against Florida) and have gone 3-1 against those SEC opponents.
While the matchup will be an exciting one, the goal of this team, despite it's shaky start, is to continue through the second half of nonconference play strong.
K-State showed poise in its 87-54 win over Central Arkansas on Sunday afternoon with senior forward Shane Southwell recording a career high tying 19 points. Southwell was one of three Wildcats to score in the double-digits as Gipson scored 17 points and freshman guard Marcus Foster put away 10.
"Our main focus is trying to go 7-0 in December," Gipson explained, "and this is a big step for us. It's a big challenge at home and hopefully we can rise to the occasion and win."
Weber said taking December one game at a time is important as the young team prepares for Big 12 Conference play, and playing Ole Miss is among the most important games during this preconference season.
"Now we've got a chance to be at home in Bramlage, hopefully a good environment and our guys rise up," Weber said. "We've talked about December being a real positive month for us and taking a big step of improvement, and this is an opportunity to gain some confidence and start feeling good about ourselves. There's no doubt that the (fan) energy has to be there. It helps us. It energizes you and it helps you play at a high level."