K-State's Will Spradling drives up the court against Kansas' Perry Ellis at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas on January 22, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
January 11, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
The No. 25 K-State Wildcats (12-3, 2-0 Big 12) will head down I-70 this afternoon for a matchup against the 18th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (10-4, 1-0 Big 12).
Always a much-anticipated game, the Sunflower Showdown is set to tip off at 1 p.m., in Allen Fieldhouse and will be aired nationally on ESPN.
"(Kansas) is beatable, but very, very talented," K-State head coach Bruce Weber said about the upcoming matchup. "We are going to have to play a really good game. It takes discipline, and it takes execution. They are going to block shots, they are going to dunk on you and they are going to make good plays. So you have to go make the next play, take it to them and see if you can get to the hoop. It is going to be a tough game, but we will learn a lot about our guys by 3 o'clock Saturday."
While Kansas is a talented team, so is K-State, and the Wildcats have proved that by winning 10-straight games with wins over quality opponents in a then-undefeated Ole Miss team, a ranked Gonzaga squad, George Washington and a top-10 Oklahoma State team. The winning streak is the longest since the 2009-10 team also won 10 consecutive games. K-State has not won 11-straight games since 1976-77 season.
Knowing exactly what his team is made of, junior forward Thomas Gipson, who is averaging 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, has confidence that if his team sticks to its fundamentals and solid defense, it will come back to Manhattan with a win.
"This is a big challenge, but I think we will overcome this challenge," said Gipson. "People thought we were going to lose to Gonzaga, but we ended up winning by playing hard. So if we go over there and play hard, we can come out with a win."
K-State has lost its last seven games in Allen Fieldhouse, and for the K-State seniors, it is the final opportunity to overcome one of the most challenging arenas in college basketball history.
"(Winning) is crucial," senior Shane Southwell said. "I have never won there or even got close to winning there. I want to get a win there. It is going to be hard to look back on my life and say I did not get a win in that arena."
Today's game will be the Jayhawks' first home Big 12 matchup of the season, so add that factor with hosting the in-state rival and one thing is certain: Allen Fieldhouse will be loud.
"It'll be different because it'll be louder, but we still have to remember to focus on the court and not worry about the crowd," said Gipson.
On Thursday afternoon, Weber tried out a new idea as a means to prepare his team for the upcoming noise.
Playing music and fan noise loudly throughout the Basketball Training Facility, Weber tried to emulate to the team exactly what it will be like at today's game.
"We did the football thing today. We turned on the music, the loud noise, and made them play without us talking just to give them that feel of what it's like," explained Weber after the practice. "I'd never (used the noise) before, but football does it all the time. I tried to simulate a little bit of something the freshmen have probably never seen. Last year, that's how loud it was. It's a tough place to communicate."
The K-State freshmen have been told by both the upperclassmen and the coaches about the noise in Allen Fieldhouse, and freshman guard Nigel Johnson said having the chance to practice in the noise was beneficial.
"It was weird because you really can't talk to anybody at all. If you want to call a play you need to call it at the timeout before or in the huddle because you really can't hear anything," Johnson explained about what he learned from the practice. "What (the coaches) have been stressing the most is for us not to get overhyped by the crowd and the atmosphere that we'll be in, just to stay level headed - that's the most important thing."
Staying calm and collected, sticking to their game and remembering the fundamentals of K-State basketball will all be important factors to the Wildcats' success today if the Wildcats hope to earn their first win in Allen Fieldhouse since 2006.
"Our emphasis today was not to be distracted by the magnitude of the game or what is going on with the crowd," explained Weber. "We just have to do what made us successful. We guard, we play hard, we rebound and we take care of the ball - and that's a pretty good formula."