SE: Every Game a Challenge in the Big 12

If there is one thing you can expect out of this year’s K-State men’s basketball team, they’re going to put up a fight. 

The Wildcats (10-3, 0-1 Big 12) opened their Big 12 season with a battle against No. 19/17 West Virginia last weekend, and despite dropping the game, 87-83, in two overtimes, K-State never backed down.

“They battled their butts off. They did everything we asked,” said K-State head coach Bruce Weber about the West Virginia loss. “I thought, overall, we handled the press pretty well. We had chances; everyone down the line did a great job to give us a chance to win. We’ve competed with three top 25 teams, now we just have to find a way to beat one of them. We have to move forward and get better.”

Staying tough and never backing down is going to be an important factor in a conference where five of the 10 teams are ranked in the top 25, while three of those teams – No. 1/2 Kansas, No. 2/1 Oklahoma and No. 13/14 Iowa State – are in the top 15. There is never an easy game in the Big 12 Conference.

“(The Big 12) has some of the top teams in the country,” said Weber before boarding the team flight to Austin, Texas, yesterday morning. “KU and Oklahoma, that’s a No. 1 and No. 2 matchup, then Texas Tech’s RPI is in the top 10, and from West Virginia to Baylor to Iowa State and on and on, the league has great depth. It has great teams and great players. It’s going to be difficult every game. I think the key will be, win or lose, can you come back the next game and give the same effort you gave the game before?”

Weber is hoping his team gives the same effort it posted at home on Saturday afternoon in tonight’s matchup with Texas (8-5, 0-1 Big 12).

Texas enters the game coming off of an 82-74 loss to Texas Tech. The Longhorns are led by first-year coach Shaka Smart and will bring a mix of experience and young talent to the court tonight. 

“Texas has some great guard play led by Isaiah Taylor (averaging 16.6 PPG) and has some young guards that are very athletic,” said Weber. “Then you have the older guys like (seniors) Cameron Ridley and (Javan) Felix give them some experience. So they are a very explosive team who can score. They come at you in a lot of ways.”

The Wildcats and the Longhorns are neck and neck when it comes to scoring as Texas averages 75.8 points per game and K-State averages 73.8, as well as rebounds per game with K-State averaging 38.6 and Texas averaging 37.3. 

K-State is led by junior Wesley Iwundu, who is averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, and he has scored in double figures in a career-best eight consecutive games. Against West Virginia, Iwundu recorded 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The 16 points were the most against a Big 12 opponent.

Along with Iwundu’s consistent play, K-State has a trio of talented freshmen in Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade. The three have played a key role in the Wildcats’ success so far this season and proved they could hang in the Big 12. That was evident against West Virginia as the trio combined to score 48 points on 14-of-29 field goals and 17-of-25 free throws, which included Brown’s first career 20-point game and 15 and 13-point efforts by Stokes and Wade.

 “It was a good environment,” said Brown after playing in his first Big 12 matchup. “I heard a lot of stories about West Virginia’s press and how tough the game was going to be. It was a good learning experience. I made some mistakes down the stretch, and I just hope to bounce back from those.”

The Wildcats have the opportunity to bounce back tonight, but, like every game, the task at hand won’t come easy. 

“Every game is going to be tough in this conference,” continued Weber. “We wish we would have found a way to win. We did not, but now we go to Texas and play a very good Texas team and whatever is after that, it is not going to get easier.”

Tonight’s matchup will tipoff at 7 p.m., at the Erwin Center and will be aired on the Longhorn Network as well as ESPN3 at http://es.pn/1JJusmC. Tonight’s game can also be heard on the K-State Sports Network. 

“We’re capable of beating anybody,” closed Weber. “We’ve won at Georgia (in December), but now we have to come back, be a little more efficient and find a way to win these close games.” 

For game notes and more information on tonight’s game, please click here

 

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