K-State's Marcus Foster dunks the ball against TCU at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas on February 19, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
March 1, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
The K-State men's basketball team (19-9, 9-6 Big 12) returns to Bramlage Coliseum tonight to face the Iowa State Cyclones (22-5, 10-5 Big 12) at 6 p.m.
The last time the two teams faced off was on Jan. 25 in Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, and the Cyclones came away with an 81-75 win.
It was a thrilling game that came down to the wire, and despite losing the first time around, K-State knows it's capable of more this evening and is determined to defend its home court.
"I hope they feel like there's a sense of urgency, because we've got to protect our home court; we have a lot to play for," K-State head coach Bruce Weber Said. "If you get Saturday, you've got to feel pretty good about the NCAA (tournament), but you lose your last two games and lose in the (Big 12) tournament, you're going to be sweating in the end. So we've just got to go one at a time to get a win, and then see if you can get another win and just keep going."
The Cyclones travel to Manhattan on a four-game winning streak and are led on the court by the Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Melvin Ejim, who is averaging a Big 12-best of 18.4 points per game - but Ejim isn't the Cyclone's only threat. With the league's No. 1 scoring offense, the Cyclones' Georges Niang, DeAndre Kane and Dustin Hogue are all also scoring in the double digits while Hogue's average of 8.5 rebounds per game is second-best in the Big 12.
"When you play against these guys, they have so many weapons we've got to have everybody cut in on the defensive end especially on defensive transition. You've got to stop them," said Weber. "They're so good offensively. Niang is playing as good as anybody offensively, in this last stretch, has been killing it. It's just such a mismatch - he plays point guard, he plays everything, so we got to get stops. And Ejim, we've got to do a better job on him.
A win today would mark K-State's 15th consecutive win in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats' haven't won 15-in-a-row since the days playing in Ahearn Filed House where K-State won 20 consecutive home games dating from Jan. 28, 1981 to Jan. 30, 1982.
Its current 14-home game wining streak is a Big 12-best this season, and a win tonight would mark K-State's school-record eighth consecutive 20-win season.
"When we're emotionally ready and there is a sense of urgency it seems like we play better," explained Weber. "Fifteen in a row at Bramlage - it would be a record. It doesn't mean a whole lot, but if we get it, it means we beat the number 9 RPI team in the country and we're tied with them up in the race in the conference's top 3 spots, but that would be a nice thing to have in the record books."
FOSTER FEELING IT - Freshman Marcus Foster continues to be successful on the court as he enters tonight's game averaging 15.3 points per game.
While he's been playing well all season, Foster really began heating things up on the court the last time the Wildcats played the Cyclones. He scored a game-high 20 points in Hilton Coliseum that game, a feat that, at the time, marked his best shooting performance in Big 12 play. Things have only gone up since then for the freshman.
"That (game) boosted my confidence a lot," Foster said about his performance against Iowa State earlier this season. "At that time they were ranked pretty high, so for me to come in and do that, against a Top 15 team, that really boosted my confidence. I really studied that game and figured out how I got those 20 points so I could repeat it."
Since that 20-point performance against Iowa State, Foster's production has been through the roof. He scored 23 points against West Virginia, 34 points against Texas and 20 points against Kansas, and during the month of February he has led his team in scoring in five of its seven games.
Foster averaged 20.9 points on 50 percent shooting (52-of-104), including 48.9 percent (22-of-45) from 3-point range, during February to go with averages of 3.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 34.1 minutes per game.
"He's had a really good run here in February, he shot it really well in that stretch," Weber said. "I knew he was a scorer, but I thought he was more of a guy that puts up a lot of shots to get points. The thing that I've been impressed with is he's making 20 (points) in 10 shots, going 3-for-4 from the three, getting some free throws. Since he's got here, he's been in the gym as much as anyone. He's really taken to working on his shot and putting the time in."
Foster's hard work and time put in at the gym hasn't gone unnoticed, and teammates know he's worked hard to get to the point he's at now.
"I think he's definitely one of the top freshmen in the country," senior forward Shane Southwell said about Foster. "He's one of the best guards, one of the top scorers. I think the main reason why is because, one: he listens, and two: he has a really good work ethic. Any given day you can come in the gym at 11 at night and he's there working on his game, getting shots up. I think he has a bright future here at K-State."