Big games loom for surging Wildcats

By Joel Jellison

FORT WORTH, Texas — It’s been hard not to notice these next two games for Kansas State for some time now.

With Oklahoma and K-State’s wins on Wednesday night, it set up a game between two teams tied for first place in the Big 12 Conference this Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.

Of course, then there’s that other game on Tuesday, the one against Kansas — also in Manhattan.

The Wildcats and Sooners will come into Saturday’s game at 3-0 in the conference, and only one team can keep its Big 12 lead alive.

K-State lost twice to Oklahoma last season, and Jordan Henriquez said they’re games they would like to get back.

Wildcats’ coach Bruce Weber said they have to stay focused on that game, and not look ahead.

“Now you’ve got to go home and play Oklahoma, who has a higher RPI than us, and it’s a big game for us,” he said. “We’ve got to worry about it one game at a time, I know there’s another game next Tuesday, but Oklahoma’s the one we have to worry about now.”

Wednesday’s game at TCU seemed to be set up as a trap for the Wildcats, an opportunity for K-State to get ahead of itself before the games against Oklahoma and Kansas.

But the Wildcats took care of business, just as senior Rodney McGruder said they wanted to — keeping an unranked, struggling team from beating them on the road.

With a win over Oklahoma on Saturday, the Wildcats would be off to their first 4-0 start in Big 12 play since the 2007-08 campaign — Frank Martin’s first team at K-State, led by Michael Beasley and Bill Walker.

TCU coach Trent Johnson said the Wildcats looked deserving of their No. 16 ranking.

“That’s a very experienced, very well coached team — very worthy of their ranking,” he said. “I thought we played probably as good as we could play for the first three or four minutes, but like most good teams that are mature, skilled, understand their role, we had a couple breakdowns defensively, a couple breakdowns offensively and they made some plays.”

Johnson has coached at several schools with varied success, especially in the NCAA tournament, at Stanford and LSU and is currently tasked with helping TCU transition from the Mountain West into the Big 12 — essentially from a mid-major to power conference school.

He said the K-State team he saw on Wednesday, brought back memories of some of the better teams he’s coached, and something he’s looking to replicate soon.

“That team reminds me of all the good teams I had,” he said. “That’s what people here at TCU want to see sooner rather than later.”

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