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Sunflower Showdown, Part 2
The K-State men's basketball team celebrates with the fans after the game against Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas on February 14, 2011. (By Scott Weaver/K-State Athletics)
February 10, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
K-State's done it before.
The Wildcats have defeated that team from down the road before, and they can do it again.
While this year the University of Kansas men's basketball team is a whole new beast with threats like freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid on the court, K-State has proven that in Bramlage Coliseum, anything goes.
Upset wins and big-time performances from under-the-radar players have been witnessed this season in the Octagon of Doom, and today, K-State students will line up in the cold for hours upon hours to get a front row seat to the show they've all been waiting for: The Sunflower Showdown, Part 2.
"We've already played Kansas, we know what they do," K-State head coach Bruce Weber said. "Bill (Self) does a good job. They've got so many players, so many bodies. I compare it to the Packers old sweep: You know what was coming; can you stop it? You know what they're going to do; do we have the energy, the bodies, the excitement to stop it? We'll see Monday night."
So what does K-State have to do in order to come out on top tonight?
In 2011, Jacob Pullen downed a heaping 38 points on the Jayhawks in K-State's 84-68 victory, while in 2008 Pullen, Michael Beasley and Bill Walker each had more than 20 points in that 84-75 win. It can be done, however, someone has to step up and be the hero.
K-State fans witnessed a hero in freshman Marcus Foster as he scored 34 points against No. 13/18 Texas on Saturday afternoon, and if he has similar results tonight, well, K-State will be in good shape.
But it's not just Foster who can score. We've seen junior Thomas Gipson lead his team in scoring seven times this season and senior Shane Southwell hit 21 points against George Washington. Will Spradling, since he went sleeveless on Jan. 21, has averaged 11 points per game and Wesley Iwundu is consistently there for support as well.
In the 2008 and 2011 home wins over Kansas, K-State players stepped up on the offense. Likewise, there will have to be some offensive production tonight if the Wildcats hope to pull off the upset.
What else did those two games have in common? Bramlage Coliseum was electric for them both.
Since the start of Big 12 play, K-State has gone undefeated on its home court, and the team credits this largely to its Wildcat faithful.
"We've got a lot of youth, and they kind of live off this crowd," Weber said. "They play well here. We need some Bramlage magic."
Lastly, K-State will have to stay true to what it does best, and that's play solid defense. Texas upended the Jayhawks on Feb. 1, by using a suffocating defense and holding Kansas to only 38.5-percent shooting from the field. If K-State can produce similar results on the defensive end - and the team knows it can as it's held down nationally-ranked opponents five times this season - then the result should be a good one for the Cats.
"We need to play tough defense, we need to rebound better," Gipson said. "Overall it's just that defensive part, and then the offense, overall we were just too stagnant (last time), not moving, not cutting and just waiting on something to happen. Everybody was ball watching, but we can't be like that Monday."
It's a quick turnaround, however the Wildcats are still hungry after their 74-57 win over Texas on Saturday, and they know sticking to fundamentals tonight will be important.
"We just can't let them get into a rhythm," said Weber. "We didn't let Texas get into a rhythm. We can't make defensive mistakes, especially the little things that make a difference. They're a top-rated team. They're first in the league, so this is important."
While the upperclassmen on this K-State roster were around for K-State's 2011 win over KU, the freshmen weren't, and creating a memory like that for themselves is something they strive for.
"We want one of those moments," explained Foster. "Shane (Southwell) was talking in the locker room about how they beat KU and the (fans) rushed the court and how they got to stand on the scorer's table. It was just an amazing moment, and all us freshmen talked about how we want to be a part of that too."
Tonight at 8 p.m., they have the opportunity to do just that.