AUSTIN, Texas — Kansas State lost a tough road game to Colorado at this time last year, returned home and put a 16-point beat-down on instate rival Kansas — the No. 1 team in the country at the time.
After Saturday’s road loss to Texas, the scenario sets up in a similar way, so can the Wildcats do it again against the seventh-ranked Jayhawks?
“Yeah, if you can find Jacob Pullen to line up and score 38 on Monday, I’d feel a lot better about it,” Frank Martin joked after Saturday’s loss. “That turnaround feels a lot better when you’ve got a guy who can do that.”
The Wildcats, who host KU tomorrow at 8 p.m., know they have to forget about what happened at Texas.
“You can’t dwell on the good and bad,” Martin said. “Last year is meaningless to this basketball team, but the reason I thought we had a chance to succeed was because we had been playing well, we didn’t dwell on a loss and we went in there on Sunday and did a great job of preparing.
“Our kids were optimistic, enthusiastic and that gave us a chance to succeed on Monday. We’ll do the same thing. That’s not going to change.”
The Jayhawks (20-5, 10-2 Big 12) are tied for first in the league, so Monday’s game represents an opportunity for the Wildcats to not only claim bragging rights, but also add a marquee victory to their NCAA-tournament resume.
So is it the biggest game of the season up to this point? Well, only because it’s the next game on the schedule, Martin said.
“After Monday the biggest game of the season is Saturday,” he said. “And after Saturday it will be Tuesday. I’m just telling you that’s how I do it.
“You make every game the biggest game regardless of who the opponent is, regardless of your record, regardless of whether you’re on a winning streak or losing streak. You make every game your biggest game because you have to learn how to handle that moment. Because when you get to the postseason that is the biggest game. When you lose you don’t play anymore, whether it be the Big 12 tournament or if you’re fortunate enough after that.”
The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats 67-49 in Allen Fieldhouse in the league opener for both teams earlier this season. While KU was a good team at the time, it is a much better squad now with how Tyshawn Taylor is playing. The senior point guard is averaging 18.4 points in league play to go along with five assists per game.
“Tyshawn is playing as well as any guard in the country right now,” Martin said. “I knew he was good, but what I’ve been watching as of late is just phenomenal because of how good he’s playing.”
Jeff Withey, who is averaging more than 10 points per game in conference play, leads the Big 12 in blocked shots and has helped form a solid secondary option in the paint alongside Thomas Robinson.
“Offensively they’re playing at an incredible rate,” Martin said. “They’re so efficient at what they do. They’re playing real well right now.”
Monday will be a significant task for the Cats, but this team has shown the capability to knock off top-ranked teams, particularly at home. One of the keys will be separating themselves from what transpired Saturday.
“We’re a good basketball team,” Martin said. “Our kids have nothing to apologize for. We’ve got to go home and prepare. We can’t go home and cry and pout. We’ve got a hard game on Monday, but you know what? It’s in our building.
“I hope we fight the way Texas fought today and that’s what we’re going to strive for.”
No. 7 KANSAS (20-5, 10-2)
Ht. Yr. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 Sr. 16.8 1.7
G — Elijah Johnson 6-4 Jr. 8.8 2.7
G — Travis Releford 6-6 Jr 9.2 4.2
F — Thomas Robinson 6-10 Jr. 18.1 12.0
F — Jeff Withey 7-0 Jr. 8.8 5.8
KANSAS STATE (17-7, 6-6)
Ht. Yr. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Will Spradling 6-2 So. 10.4 2.3
G — Angel Rodriguez 5-11 Fr. 7.4 2.4
G — Rodney McGruder 6-4 Jr. 14.7 5.1
F — Jamar Samuels 6-7 Sr. 9.9 6.2
F — Thomas Gipson 6-7 Fr. 8.4 5.4