Even before Kansas State took the court against Oklahoma State on Saturday, Wildcats’ coach Bruce Weber wanted his team to begin thinking about another team.
(Kansas State guard Will Spradling runs to the bench to celebrate his teammate’s 74-71 upset victory over No. 6 Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum. K-State will try to extend its winning streak to 10 games on Tuesday when it travels to Fort Worth, Texas, to face TCU).
No, Weber didn’t want his Wildcats to look past the sixth-ranked Cowboys, but he wanted them be aware of the upcoming challenges — including K-State’s first true road game on Tuesday at TCU.
It’s there, against the worst team in the Big 12 last season, that Weber expects K-State to face one of the biggest mental hurdles it’s seen all season.
“I don’t usually look far ahead, and after George Washington, I put Oklahoma (State), TCU, and Kansas on the board and I said, ‘which one mentally is the most important game?’” he said.
“I just said TCU’s the game, no matter if we won or lost, we had to get ready for TCU, because they’re much improved.”
The Wildcats swept the Horned Frogs a year ago, but they’ve shown that Daniel-Meyer Coliseum can be a bit of a trap. Just ask Kansas, which played its worst game a season ago in Fort Worth, and suffered one of the most memorable upsets of the year.
K-State (11-3, 1-0 Big 12) is coming off a game with Oklahoma State that had more emotional swings than a soap opera. The Wildcats needed an 8-0 run late in the second half to get a lead they would hold on to until the end.
Junior forward Thomas Gipson said as the team prepares to go on the road in the Big 12, it has to be ready to play at a high level for the entire 40 minutes.
“We just have to be smarter on the road,” he said. “It all just starts with defense. People play harder when they’re at home and we just have to play hard. We have to step it up. We have to step up every game.”
The Horned Frogs (9-4, 0-1) are led by junior point guard Kyan Anderson, who almost led the Frogs to an upset win over K-State in Manhattan last season. Anderson is scoring 16.2 points per game, while Amric Fields controls things in the post with 15 points and six rebounds a contest.
For a few Wildcats, it will be their first visit to Texas for basketball since they arrived on campus. Both freshmen Marcus Foster and Wesley Iwundu call Texas home. Weber said they will have to be ready to put aside the homecoming distraction.
“Gip went through it last year,” Weber said of the Wildcats’ other Texas native. “Marcus, you know, they go back home, Wesley, back to Texas. Thomas, last year, struggled at TCU. They’ve got to keep focused and stay on task, the next game is just as important if you’re going to stay in the race.”
Every game in the Big 12 can swing the title race in a different direction, proven by last season’s tie between K-state and Kansas that came down to the final game of the season.
Both the Wildcats and Jayhawks lost their final games to finish tied, but key wins and losses during the conference schedule made the difference.
K-State opened its Big 12 schedule with a win over Oklahoma State last season, and Kansas lost at TCU in February as part of a three-game skid. Both teams went on to finish 14-4 in the Big 12.
Following the victory over Oklahoma State, and previous wins over Gonzaga and George Washington, junior forward Nino Williams said the Wildcats feel like they can play with anybody right now.
“We believe we can win, even if nobody else did,” he said. “The guys in the locker room — we’re confident in each other. When we come out on the court, we’ve just got to go out with a persona that we can beat anybody.”
Foster named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week
After leading the Wildcats to wins over one-loss George Washington and No. 6 Oklahoma State, freshman guard Marcus Foster was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday.
Foster averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 52 percent from the field in the two contests.
Foster scored 15 points in the New Year’s Eve win over George Washington, and had 17 and a career-high eight rebounds against the Cowboys on Saturday.
Foster has scored in double figures 12 times this season and has led K-State in scoring seven different times.
Meyer arrested Saturday
K-State walk-on Shawn Meyer was arrested Saturday and booked for failure to appear by the Riley County Police Department.
The junior has made eight appearances for the Wildcats and has scored six points this season.
Meyer’s failure to appear was based on traffic violations. His bond was set at $500 and he was also released on Saturday.