SE: K-State MBB Eager to Return to Familiar Territory

For the K-State men’s basketball team, facing Green Bay on Wednesday at 7 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum will bring about two levels of familiarity. 

First, the Phoenix (3-3) play an up-tempo, high-pressure style of basketball the Wildcats will see against Big 12 opponents like West Virginia or Texas. Second, Green Bay’s second-year head coach, Linc Darner, was a recruit of K-State head coach Bruce Weber when he was an assistant at Purdue. 

“He’s done a great job, just worked his way up the business,” Weber said of Darner, who holds a 318-133 record in 15 years as a head coach, highlighted by a 26-16 record and trip to the NCAA Tournament last year with Green Bay, preceded by a national championship at Division II Florida Southern in 2015. “They play a very high pace style. Last year, they trapped a lot — pressing, trapping, run and jump.

“Initially when I scheduled the game, our coaches were, ‘Why are we playing them?’ I really thought about Texas and West Virginia. You want a game where it prepares you for what’s going to happen in the league. It will a little bit. They don’t trap as much as they did last year, but it will still be good for us to play a different style.” 

Green Bay hasn’t faced a Big 12 school since it beat K-State in 2002, evening the series up at one game apiece. Like K-State, Green Bay relies on a balanced scoring attack. Four players are averaging in double figures so far for the Phoenix, with another sitting at 9.5 points per game. Green Bay also ranks 38th in the NCAA with 172 free throw attempts this season. 

“The big thing when you watch, they’re going to push the ball and they’re going to put it up very quickly, whether it’s quick threes or dribble drives. We’re going to be on our horses right away,” Weber said. “If you make a basket, you better get back because they’re coming and they’re going to take it right at you. It’ll be good for us.”

The Wildcats (5-1) look to rebound from their first loss of the season, a 69-68 heartbreaker to Maryland in the Barclays Center Classic title game on Saturday in Brooklyn, New York. Senior forward D.J. Johnson, who put up a career-best 26 points against the Terrapins, said the loss was a “reminder to stick what we’re taught and our principles and everything else will take care of itself.”

Johnson said he’s already seen the team put the loss in its rearview mirror. 
“We watched film over it and we had a good practice yesterday, so I’d say it’s behind us. I know it’s hard to put that one behind you, especially when you’re that close, but it’s something we’re going to have to work on,” he said, before describing the challenges Green Bay will bring. “They get up and down the floor, they spread the floor really well, so it’ll be a great test for us.” 

The Wildcats will turn around and play at Saint Louis on Saturday at 7 p.m. This will bring some more familiarity for Johnson and freshman Xavier Sneed, as it will be a return to their hometown where plenty of local support is expected. 

For now, the Wildcats’ only focus is on Green Bay. 

“I really want to focus on Green Bay, one game at a time, and if we don’t take care of them, then Saturday doesn’t mean anything,” said Johnson, admitting the trip home would be special. “It’s cool to get to go home. I know Xavier will enjoy it. He’s a freshman and he gets to go home and play a game in front of his home crowd. It’ll be good for both us.”