When Kansas and Kansas State met for the first time this season, the Wildcats were riding high on a 10-game winning streak that included wins over Ole Miss, Gonzaga and George Washington.
But their performance in Lawrence on Jan. 11 — an 86-60 loss to the Jayhawks — was nothing to write home about.
K-State is hoping for a redo tonight — feeding off its 74-57 drubbing of Texas on Saturday — when the Wildcats welcome No. 7 Kansas to Manhattan for an 8 p.m. showdown on ESPN.
The Wildcats (16-7, 6-4 Big 12) have won just three of the last 20 against the Jayhawks (18-5, 9-1). Two of those were in Manhattan.
Freshman guard Marcus Foster, who scored a career-high 34 points against the Longhorns on Saturday, said he remembers the pictures of Michael Beasley and Jacob Pullen standing on the scorer’s tables after an 84-75 win in Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 30, 2008.
The freshman said he’s thought about having the chance to join what’s become an elite company over the last nearly 30 years.
“We’ve been talking about it among the freshmen,” Foster said. “Shane (Southwell) was talking about it in the locker room and how the fans rushed the court (in 2011). They got to stand on top of the scorer’s table and it was just an amazing moment. All the freshmen talk about how we want to be a part of that too.”
In his two years as the Wildcats’ head coach, Bruce Weber has already beaten every team in the conference except for one — Kansas.
On Saturday, Weber said he felt his team put together its two most complete halves of the season. And he said they’d have to do that again to beat a team like Kansas.
“We’ve already played Kansas and we know what they do,” Weber said. “Bill (Self) does a good job. He’s got so many players, so many bodies. I compare them to the Packers’ old sweep run, you know what’s coming, but can you stop it? We know what they are going to do, but do we have the energy, bodies, and excitement to stop it?”
The answer to that question in January, and so many times in the past, has been no. But more often than not, the series has been more competitive when the team’s meet in Manhattan.
Junior forward Thomas Gipson said the problems in Lawrence were easy to identify, and they’ve worked to correct them.
“We just need to play team defense, we need to rebound better,” he said. “Overall, we just need to play better. Our offense was just too stagnant. No one was moving or cutting — just waiting on something to happen. Everyone was ball watching and it can’t be like that. We all have to share the ball.”
Despite his 34-point performance, Foster played just 29 minutes against the Longhorns and said he felt fine after the game, and that he would make sure he was well rested in time for the game tonight.
He was held to seven points on 3 of 12 shooting in the first meeting, but Foster said that game was also the first time he’d ever seen a scouting plan put together specifically to take him out of a game.
“What bothered me was the scouted defense,” he said. “I’ve never faced a scouted defense, so they scouted me very well. They knew every move I was going to do. I also over pressured myself about it. I forced the issue too much and was playing too selfish. I just have to stay relaxed and keep playing how I play.”
Foster found his success against Texas by letting the game come to him, a moniker Weber often refers to when a player is struggling within the offense. Foster scored 10 of the Wildcats’ first 12 points, and his first three baskets all came off passes from Wesley Iwundu.
The Jayhawks have stumbled just once in Big 12 play, losing at Texas to open February. But they’ve continued to lean on their three starting freshmen and sophomore Perry Ellis, with all four averaging double figures.
Kansas features preseason presumed No. 1 NBA Draft pick Andrew Wiggins at wing, and center Joel Embiid, who is quickly climbing the draft charts and challenging his teammate for the top spot.
Wayne Selden, the Jayhawks other freshman starter, scored 20 points in the earlier meeting between the teams, and played a hand in frustrating Foster.
Weber said the Kansas game is important as they start down the final stretch of the regular season, with just eight games remaining before the Big 12 tournament.
“They’re a top-ranked team, they’re first in the league,” he said. “One, we are still fighting to get into the NCAA Tournament and the other, we have five top 50 wins. We still have several left that we’re going to have challenges with and Kansas is one of them.”
Foster named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week
With his 34-point performance against Texas, Foster was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
It’s the second time Foster has earned the recognition this season, and his output was the most any Big 12 freshman has scored this season.
Foster finished the game 13 of 16 from the floor, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers. Only six freshmen in Big 12 history have scored more points in a single game.
Cats redshirt Karapetyan
Weber confirmed freshman Jack Karapetyan, who hasn’t played since Dec. 1, will redshirt this season during his radio show last week.
Karapetyan played in six of the Wildcats’ first seven games of the season, but has sat out with an injury since that time. The freshman from Los Angeles also arrived on campus this fall with an injury, and didn’t begin to practice until right before the beginning of exhibition play.