In just three games on the road in conference play, the Kansas State men’s basketball team is already 1-2.
And while winning at home is proving to be a trend in the Big 12, winning on the road has been a difficult task. So it goes without saying, that the top teams in the league will separate themselves from the rest by winning road games.
(Kansas State’s Thomas Gipson tries to get a shot past a pair of West Virginia defenders on Jan. 18 in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats will go on the road on Saturday to play Iowa State).
Last season, the Wildcats (14-5, 4-2) went 6-3 on the road in Big 12 play, and lost just one game at home the whole way.
So as the Wildcats travel to Ames, Iowa, to play No. 16 Iowa State on Saturday, they know how important every road game is from here on out. The game is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. tip on the Big 12 Network.
The Cyclones (14-3, 2-3) are coming off three straight losses after winning their first 14 games of the season, and haven’t played since last Saturday.
After losing its last road game to Texas on a buzzer beater on Tuesday, associate head coach Chris Lowery said K-State is ready to get right back to action.
“I think it’s good for us,” he said. “You don’t want to wait a long time to play again. Hopefully it will be to our advantage to get right back at it. They’ve had a week to get ready for us, but we’re coming off a defeat where we felt we should have won or at least played overtime.”
The Wildcats haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on the loss earlier this week, but they have watched and tried to learn from it going forward.
Lowery said the attitude of the team in its return to Manhattan was just to get back to work.
“I think the number one thing we needed to do was watch it as a unit and talk about the things we need to do better,” he said. “We didn’t play very well and still had an opportunity to win, we let some things get away that have been very good to us. It was good for us to watch it, see it, and then go from there.”
Junior forward Thomas Gipson, who led K-State with 24 points, said the team has handled the loss pretty well. Despite being somewhat sad, he said they’ve put their focus back on going 1-0 every game.
Freshman Marcus Foster did not play so well against the Longhorns, scoring eight points on 3-of-12 shooting in 27 minutes. Foster chalked it up to just one of those nights where a shooter couldn’t get into rhythm.
“It was an off night, my shots weren’t falling,” he said. “I didn’t have any energy, I should have brought more energy to the game, probably would have gotten my offense going, but it’s a learning experience. I’ve seen myself on film and I have to bring more energy when I play.”
In Iowa State, the Wildcats will play a team that was once among the hottest teams in the country, winning its first 14 games. The Cyclones did so on the back of Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, who claimed a Big 12 award nearly every week of non-conference play and is averaging 16.7 points.
Past Kane, the Cyclones return Melvin Ejim, who is scoring 17.7 points per game as a senior. Sophomore Georges Niang is scoring 15.2 points per game, and is a tough matchup with a diverse skill set.
Gipson said he is ready to take on the challenge of defending and trying to score on Niang.
“When we were there in Ames, he got the win and when we were here, I got the win,” he said. “It’s going to be a good matchup. It’ll be a challenge, but I’m ready for it.”
Just as it always has since Fred Hoiberg took over as coach, Iowa State will look to score points early and often from the perimeter, making 8.7 3-pointers per game. But the Wildcats have been good at defending the 3, the best, in fact, in the Big 12.
Lowery said he thinks the Wildcats will benefit from having already played a team that has a similar style to the Cyclones.
“The one good thing that we’ve done is we’ve already played Oklahoma, which is very similar in style,” he said. “They try to make you switch and have tough matchups that play to their favor.”
Despite the fact that the Cyclones are scoring nearly 20 more points per game than the Wildcats, Lowery doesn’t think K-State should shy away from playing a style that would score a lot of points — as long as that style involves creating points from making defensive plays.
“I think we want to impose our will on them,” he said. “If we can get the transition from defense to offense quick, then I think we need to do that, because their bench is not long and they’ve shown to be foul prone. We’ve got to change pace when we feel like we’ve got an advantage.”