SE: Wildcats Host Dillons’ Sunflower Showdown
K-State men’s basketball (15-11, 4-9 Big 12) plans on showing Wildcat nation what it’s made of once again tomorrow evening.
Earlier this year, the team proved it could beat anyone who set foot in the Octagon of Doom, as K-State took down No. 1 Oklahoma on its home court. Now it’s time to take down the No. 2 team in the country – the Kansas Jayhawks (22-4, 10-3 Big 12).
“They’re our rivals, in this town you either love KU or you hate them, and I just want to go out there and beat them,” said senior guard Justin Edwards. “(Winning this game) would mean the world. I know the fans would love it; I’d love it. It’s a fun experience and I just want to get another win against them.”
Tomorrow evening’s Dillons’ Sunflower Showdown is set to tip off at 5 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum. The sold-out rivalry matchup will be aired nationally on ESPN2 with Dave Flemming (play-by-play) and Miles Simon (analyst) calling the action and can be heard via the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) on the call.
“I’m always looking forward to this game,” said junior guard Wesley Iwundu, who has never lost to the Jayhawks on his home court as K-State has won the previous two home matchups against Kansas. “This game is very important, it could open up a door for us going ahead. We know we have to get this one; it’s very important to us.”
K-State enters tomorrow’s game coming off of 63-49 win at TCU. The win snapped a 13-game Big 12 road losing streak for the Cats and gave the team added confidence heading into its final five games of the Big 12 regular-season slate.
The Wildcats are paced by Iwundu, who is averaging 12.1 points per game, and Justin Edwards, who is averaging 12 points per game, while freshman Dean Wade is also averaging points in the double digits with 10 points per game. Edwards and Wade lead the team in rebounding, averaging 5.7 and 5.3 rebounds per game, respectively.
“We have to guard them, there’s no doubt about that, and hope the crowd gets involved,” said head coach Bruce Weber on keys to taking down Kansas. “Then we have to have a run in the second half – that makes a difference. That really helped us in the Oklahoma game. We have to grind it out then make a run in the second half.”
The Jayhawks enter the game coming off of a 94-67 win over Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse on Monday evening. The team is led by senior Perry Ellis, who is averaging 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. With three other players also averaging points in the double digits – Wayne Selden, Jr. (14.2 PPG), Frank Mason III (13.2 PPG) and Devonte’ Graham (11.3 PPG) – Kansas boasts the Big 12’s top scoring offense, averaging 83.1 points per game, and is among the Big 12’s most well rounded teams.
“I think they’re playing as well as anyone in the country right now mainly because [Devonte’] Graham and Perry Ellis are playing at such at high level,” said Weber. “We have to make them earn baskets; when they get Graham, Selden and Perry playing well at the same time, they’re tough to beat for anyone in the country. “
The last time K-State and Kansas matched up was on February 3, in Allen Fieldhouse. K-State dropped that game, 77-59, despite keeping it close until the final minutes.
“We played a good 35 minutes against them – we stayed close to them the whole game,” explained Edwards who scored just two points in that game. “But in that five-minute stretch, we let them get going, and after that they just had a big lead and we couldn’t cut it. Playing a full game is going to be key for us.”
Since K-State last matched up against Kansas, Edwards has averaged 15.3 points per game. He’s stepped up his level of play in the Wildcats’ previous four games and will be looked upon to make an impact tomorrow evening.
With just five games left to play in the regular season before the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City (March 9-12), every game, starting with tomorrow’s Sunflower Showdown, is of added importance for K-State.
“We still have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, it’s not over,” said Iwundu. “We’re staying positive about that. We’re trying to make a run here with these next two games and after that, then we’ll see where it goes from there.”
For full game notes and more on tomorrow’s Sunflower Showdown, please click here.