Cats look to start another win streak

By Joel Jellison

Bruce Weber gave his team the day off on Wednesday.

One day after the Kansas State men’s basketball team took a tough loss to Kansas at home, the Wildcats’ coach wanted his team to have a day to rest if it wanted it.

But it was simply back to business for the Wildcats, as Weber said he went to the road for recruiting, and the players simply hit the gym in preparation for Saturday’s game against Iowa State.

“That’s a positive thing,” Weber said. “You can sit and pout about it and have a sourpuss attitude or you can do something about it, and that’s what we challenged them with.”

Saturday’s game in Ames, Iowa, was supposed to be a battle of two teams scrapping out for second place, staying within distance of Kansas’ one-game lead in the Big 12 Conference. But the Cyclones suffered a puzzling loss on Wednesday, falling at Texas Tech 56-51.

Weber said it’s hard to know how Iowa State will respond to the loss. The Cyclones have won all 10 of their homes games this season.

“They could come out mean and mad, you just don’t know what they’re going through,” Weber said. “All we can control is our attitude and our mindset. It’s a maturity game for both teams. How do you deal with disappointing losses?”

Iowa State leads the Big 12 in scoring offense at 78.9 points per contest, while making a league-leading nine 3s per game. They also lead the Big 12 in assists and rebounds.

After being outrebounded in the last two games, Weber said it will be crucial for the Wildcats to improve on the boards.

“Some of it they get you spread and they get you in the scramble,” he said. “We have to rebound. Rod (McGruder) has to get back to rebounding, guards have to rebound, big guys got to rebound, we’ve got to get Nino (Williams) back involved and get him some rebounds — we’ve still got to keep improving and that’s one of the areas we could get better at.”

Saturday’s game could be a bit of a chess match between the Cyclones’ offense and the Wildcats’ defense. As good as Iowa State is in so many offensive categories, K-State is second in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 57.4 points per game and in 3-point percentage defense at 27.6.

Junior Shane Southwell said the game will be about whoever can recover from their most recent loss.

“They probably shoot the ball, stats wise, better than us, but we’ve just got to fight,” he said. “It’s just a maturity game because they lost a game and we lost a game so somebody’s got to bounce back and win.”

Weber said the Wildcats need to get production from the guys who come off their bench, especially from Williams, whose production has waned in recent games.

Weber said Williams’ minutes have been limited lately due to increased minutes for Southwell and good games from Adrian Diaz.

“We gave AD a chance the other night and he did well against TCU and did a couple good things against Oklahoma,” he said. “Nino has struggled a little bit, but we need him to play well, he gives us ruggedness.”

The Wildcats will be going right into one of the toughest environments in the Big 12 in Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum. Although K-State has had success there, the Cyclones always seem to keep the games close. And when the Wildcats look to pull away, Iowa State cuts the score right back down.

It’s all part of what some refer to as “Hilton Magic,” and it’s something McGruder said you just have to play through.

“It’s a tough place to play, we’ve just go to go in there ready,” he said. “Every time I’ve been there we just never really had energy when we stepped on the court. That’s the main key, just going out there with tons of energy and intensity.”

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