Monday, October 5, 2015

Cats seeking to end drought in Stillwater

In 1993, the average price of gas was $1.16 a gallon, you could go to a movie for less than $5, Bill Clinton was the president of the United States, and Kansas State won a basketball game in Stillwater, Okla.

Since then, the Wildcats have lost 11 straight at Oklahoma State, losing by an average margin of 13.3 points at Gallagher-Iba Arena, regarded as one of the toughest venues in college basketball.

It represents the longest drought for a K-State team at an opposing building in the Big 12. The Wildcats hope to end that streak tomorrow, when they travel to Stillwater for a 12:45 p.m. tip against the Cowboys.

“That building is hard,” K-State head coach Frank Martin said. “The crowd is off the charts and they feed off of that. They have great players and (coach) Travis (Ford) does a heck of a job with their team.”

Since 1993, K-State has won in Allen Fieldouse, the home of Kansas, twice. That speaks volumes to the losing stretch in Stillwater, where the Wildcats have also lost 15 of their last 16.

K-State experienced what can happen there last season. Leading by eight points in the second half and seemingly in control, suddenly things just fell apart and the Wildcats lost by 14.

“Last year, we were managing the game, and then we came apart at the seams,” Martin said. “I think we had four players foul out. Jamar (Samuels) got a tech. Two years before that, we went in there and it is the only time I went in there and told a team that we have to win the game. Once again, we turn it over on back-to-back possessions, and we cannot finish them off.”

But Saturday represents a golden opportunity to end the streak. The Cowboys (9-9, 2-3 in Big 12 play) are down. One player left the team before the season, two more quit the team in December, and Jean-Paul Olukemi, the team’s third-leading scorer, is out for the year with a torn ACL.

Fans aren’t coming to Gallagher-Iba at the rate they used to. The arena holds 13,611, but the average attendance per game this year has been 8,403.

But the Cowboys still have one thing going for them and that’s Keiton Page’s presence. The 5-foot-8 senior guard averages 14.8 points per game and is a threat to go off from 3 at any point.

“He might be the smallest player in the league, but he probably has the biggest heart,” Martin said. “He is a ferocious competitor. I am not there every day, but I am told he is as good of leader as they have seen at Oklahoma State in years. When you watch their team play, and you watch him, I think it is clear as day that he is the guy that guides them.”

The Cowboys also have Le’Bryan Nash, who may be the top freshman in the Big 12. The 6-foot-7 forward is the only other Oklahoma State player in double figures with 12.9 points per game.

K-State will have an advantage in depth, as the Cowboys prefer to just go one to two players deep into their bench. And the Wildcats will have a major rebounding advantage. K-State outrebounds teams by an average of six per game, while Oklahoma State is getting outrebounded by 3.6 per contest, which ranks 288th in the country.

The Cowboys also don’t have a true point guard, which has led to a .77 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 269th nationally.

Those are the things playing in the Wildcats’ favor, but the Cowboys have one on their side as well: Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“I’m just telling you,” Martin said, “It is crazy there. It’s going to be hard but we’re excited for it.”


KANSAS STATE (13-4, 2-3)

  Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.

G — Rodney McGruder Jr. 6-4 15.7 5.6

G — Will Spradling     So. 6-2   11.1 2.1

G — Angel Rodriguez   Fr.  5-11 6.4     1.9

F — Jamar Samuels     Sr.  6-7 11.1 6.5

F — Thomas Gipson     Fr.  6-7   8.9   6.0



  Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.

G — Keiton Page       Sr.  5-8   14.8 1.8

G — Markel Brown     So. 6-3 8.3 5.2

F — Michael Cobbins     Fr. 6-8   5.0   4.4

F — Le’Bryan Nash       Fr.  6-7 12.9 4.9

F — Brian Williams       So.  6-5   5.9     3.0

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