Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cats look to end losing skid

More often than not, when Kansas State hosts Texas during basketball season, it’s a big-time game.

This isn’t your average Longhorns team.

Texas (9-10, 1-5 Big 12) starts three freshmen and two sophomores, and has played the season without it’s best returning player, Myck Kabongo. The Longhorns, who will take on K-State on Wednesday in Bramlage Coliseum at 7 p.m., won their first Big 12 game of the season when they beat Texas Tech this past weekend, and sit ninth in the conference standings.

But No. 18-ranked K-State (15-4, 4-2) coach Bruce Weber said the Longhorns are a bit better then they appear on paper.

“They’ve got to be one of the best 1-5 teams in the country,” he said. “They’ve played everybody very close, they’ve played a very tough schedule, they’re a good team. They’ve got some physicality and they’ve got a couple good scorers.”

Texas opened the season with a young group that expected to be surrounded around Kabongo, a sophomore guard that likely has NBA prospects. But the Longhorns’ point guard was suspended for most of the season by the NCAA before the year ever began, and Texas was left to pick up the pieces without him.

The Longhorns’ season took a sharp turn downward in the first month of the year, when Texas lost its opening game of the Maui Invitational against tournament-host Chaminade.

Texas dropped games to top 25 opponents in Georgetown and Michigan State, but knocked North Carolina out of the polls. The Longhorns lost their first five games of conference play before finally taking down Texas Tech 73-57 on Saturday.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, are looking to end a season-high two-game losing streak that dropped them from 11th to 18th in the top 25. K-State entered last week on a high, but lost to Kansas at home and then got beat by Iowa State on the road.

One of the primary culprits in both games is rebounding, and Weber said it’s the biggest area they need to improve in right now.

“We all have to rebound,” he said. “You can’t say one guy, you can go through, Rod (McGruder) got beat one-on-one, Nino (Williams) got beat one-on-one, Shane (Southwell) got beat, Will (Spradling) got beat, DJ (Johnson) got beat.

“It’s a determination thing, it’s pride. You know you’re going to get beat sometimes, but there’s just too many, and when you add them up, that’s probably the difference in the Kansas game and the Iowa State game.”

The Wildcats have been outrebounded in the last three games, most so in the losses to KU and Iowa State.

K-State is among the leaders in the country in offensive rebounding, but ranks just ninth in the Big 12 in league games.

The Wildcats have lost the second-chance battle the past few games, due in part because of the rebounding difference. The Wildcats shot 64 percent in the second half against the Cyclones, but Iowa State dominated the second chance points on the way to the win.

“We kept scoring, but when they get those second chances, it’s probably a difference in the game,” Weber said.

Despite tough losses in the last two games, Weber said the Wildcats’ confidence is not broken. He said they can turn things around against Texas by playing their brand of basketball.

“We’ve got to stay positive, get some energy, play with life, play with style, use the crowd,” Weber said. “That’s the biggest thing.“You can


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