Wildcats Travel to Lawrence for Sunflower Showdown

Aired nationally on ESPN, today marks the first Sunflower Showdown of the 2014-15 season. 
"It is a very tough environment, but we just want to go out there and play our game," said K-State senior forward Thomas Gipson. "I feel like we can win anywhere, especially after the last two road games we played where we were good on offense and getting stops on defense. I feel like we are up for the challenge."
Under the helm of 12th-year head coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks are a daunting 184-9 at home. Allen Fieldhouse has proven it is no easy environment to play in, and the Jayhawks, currently the top team in the Big 12 Conference, have proven no easy task on the court. 
"The big thing is that Kelly (Oubre) and Cliff (Alexander) have figured it out and have gotten some experience," said Weber. "(Coach Bill Self) made both of them earn it and now it gives them two more weapons that can do a lot of things."
Both rookies, Oubre and Alexander have continued to grow into their roles with the Jayhawks. Oubre has proven be to one of the top freshmen of the league this year and, in the Jayhawks' most recent home win, a 85-78 victory over No. 19/20 Oklahoma on Jan. 19, he scored a team-high 19 points. Alexander, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound freshman forward, has grown into a threat off the Jayhawk bench. 
While the Jayhawk rookies are playing well, it's the team's upperclassmen that are leading the way. Sophomore Frank Mason and junior Perry Ellis are the Jayhawks' leading scorers, averaging 12.9 and 12.6 points per game, respectively.
"Frank Mason might be the key to the team and even though everyone forgets about Perry Ellis, he is a rock-solid guy like Nino (Williams) or Thomas (Gipson) that they depend on," continued Weber. "I think Frank's improvement came by chance since they had no one else, so he had to play though mistakes. He plays confident, makes plays, and is shooting the ball better."
While the Jayhawks are playing exciting basketball, so is K-State. As of recent, the Wildcats have won five of their last seven Big 12 contests - including two over top-25 teams - and continue to take steps in the right direction. 
Although they are coming off of a nail-biting 65-59 loss to a gritty West Virginia team earlier this week, the Wildcats have been on the rise. 
And what better opportunity to prove that than in Allen Fieldhouse?
"(I'm expecting) excitement. I know this is going to be a really crazy environment, we just can't let it get to us," said junior guard Justin Edwards. "The atmosphere in Allen Fieldhouse is crazy. Other than being here (in Bramlage), it's probably one of the craziest atmospheres I've seen."
Last season, K-State fell, 86-60, at Allen Fieldhouse. However, the last time K-State traveled to Lawrence, the Wildcat roster was young. Last season's loss come during one of the first true road games of their careers for current sophomores (then freshmen) Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu and Jevon Thomas.
"It was hectic. The crowd was yelling loud the whole game. It was something I'd never seen before, but it was fun experience at the same time; something I'll never forget," said Iwundu. "But we know what to expect now going to Allen Fieldhouse; we know the environment. We'll be ready."
Prepared and ready to go, the Wildcats know what they need to do in order to be successful this afternoon.
"Every time you have played at a place, it gives you better experience," explained Weber. "For anyone that goes in there, you have to limit their runs, take care of the ball and play strong. They play with a lot of confidence and play loose there. They got in league play and got going, and they've handle everyone pretty easily. We will have to have the same focus we did at Oklahoma and Iowa State."
However, let's not forget February 10, 2014 - the last time the Wildcats and the Jayhawks matched up. We all remember the outcome of that game, right?
A game that went into overtime, K-State won a hard-fought battle in Bramlage Coliseum as it defeated Kansas, 85-82. 
So, this team has done it before, and they have no doubt they can do it again. 
For game notes and more information on today's Sunflower Showdown, please click here
WILLIAMS "DOUBTFUL" FOR TODAY'S GAME
In the Wildcats' loss to West Virginia on Tuesday evening, K-State senior and recent high-scorer Nino Williams was taken out of the game with an injury to his left knee.
Here is what head coach Bruce Weber had to say to the media on the status of Williams:
"I would say he is doubtful. The good news is that there is no structure damage where he would need surgery and be out for the year. The negative is that it is a strain or sprain with irritation where we have to go on him and his pain tolerance. He is a tough guy. He has lived with pain since I have been here. Ironically, it is not the same knee as the one he has had procedures on. He just landed wrong on a steal where he lost his footing and irritated it.  If he cannot play, he must be hurting. He did three treatments today (Thursday) with mostly running in the pool and shooting some free throws. Miracles happen and (athletic trainer) Luke (Sauber) has a magical touch. We will see if he can get him out-and-about. Obviously, we want him Saturday, but we also have to look at the 10 games after that."
In his eight minutes on the court against West Virginia, Williams - this week's Big 12 Player of the Week after back-to-back 20-plus point performances - scored six points to go along with two rebounds and two steals. 
"Nino is very important to this team," said Iwundu. "Offensively, we need Nino a lot. If we don't have Nino, somebody has to step up and fill his shoes. He's a very big key to this team." 
 

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