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Cats hope road win brings confidence

By Joel Jellison

Perhaps Marcus Foster said it best.

When things started to go fast at Texas Tech this past Tuesday, Kansas State expected to lose.

After the Wildcats (19-9, 9-6 Big 12) defeated No. 15 Texas and No. 7 Kansas in back-to-back home games early in February, things got tough — drastically so — and in a hurry.

With the win over the Red Raiders breaking their losing streak on the road, the Wildcats are hoping for renewed confidence when they host Iowa State on Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Bramlage Coliseum.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said the Wildcats’ last four games, losses at Baylor and Oklahoma, and wins over last place TCU and ninth-place Texas Tech, have been a tough stretch.

“I think some of the guys hit a wall, just keeping them energized, focused,” Weber said after the Wildcats beat Texas Tech on Tuesday. “(Thomas) Gipson goes ‘we’re having a horrible year’ and I’m like ‘no we haven’t, we’re 18-9,’ we’ve got a chance to be a 5-6-7-8 seed, some where in there. There’s a lot of good things that can happen.

“We’ve had to do a lot of talking and prodding and psychological things, motivational stuff. I hope this game gets us over the hump.”

The Wildcats went from an emotional high after the two home wins over the Big 12’s top two teams, to extreme lows right after.

Weber said going into Tuesday’s contest, he’d turned to a video for a team building exercise.

“I showed a little video and it talks about brick walls,” he said. “Why are brick walls there? To show how much you want it. And what are you going to do with it? And then we talked a lot about are you about winning or yourself? We had to refocus as a group, and I think we did.”

Going into Tuesday’s game, the Wildcats had lost six straight on the road. And with 1:19 left, the Red Raiders had a chance to take the lead and the ball after a flagrant foul against K-State.

Texas Tech missed its final free throw, and didn’t score the rest of the way. The Wildcats had so many chances to give away the game, just like they had in so many other road games. But this time, they didn’t.

“They kept fighting,” Weber said. “They didn’t give in. We didn’t score a field goal for nine minutes, you can easily just give in, but we didn’t.”

For senior Will Spradling, the difference between Tuesday and the six road losses before it seemed simple.

“We had some balls bounce our way at the end of the game,” he said. “In other games at the end we’ve had balls bounce the other way. We were kind of due for one.”

Now the Wildcats get to return home, where they’ve yet to lose in Big 12 play this season. The challenge coming in, though, is a team K-State already lost to on the road.

The Cyclones (22-5, 10-5) have won their last four games, three of them at home, and have won seven of their last eight dating back to the start of February.

Iowa State is fighting for Big 12 tournament seeding as the regular season comes down to the final three games, and the Cyclones are tied with Texas for the No. 2 spot in the league.

The Wildcats had a shot to beat Iowa State on the road in January, but couldn’t make plays in the final minutes.

“We weren’t that far away,” Weber said Thursday. “The game started OK, we let them get that big run before half and then we got back into it. We have an opportunity down the stretch, but we couldn’t get stops. You’ve got to stop them. They’re so good offensively.”

Weber said he hopes the team isn’t just content with its road win over Texas Tech, likely needing another win or two to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“I hope they feel like there is a sense of urgency,” he said. “We’ve got to protect home court. We’ve got a lot to play for.”

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