K-State has tough road coming up

By Joel Jellison

Immediately after beating Texas Tech 68-59, Kansas State was focused on its next two games.

On Saturday, the Wildcats will host Iowa State, followed by a road trip at Kansas on Monday.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said he knows it’s an important part of the schedule.

“Now we have a really big stretch,” he said. “The two teams that beat us in the first half, you’ve got them back-to-back on a Saturday, Monday, and we’ll see if we learned something from it and we can make some strides.”

The Wildcats haven’t been shy about saying they let one get away from them in the 59-55 loss to the Jayhawks at Bramlage Coliseum. Just days later, it happened again. K-State traveled to Iowa State, and lost 73-67.

The Wildcats are tied with the Jayhawks as they head into Saturday’s game against Iowa State, and a win would give them a chance to challenge Kansas for the conference lead.

K-State hasn’t been in first-place in the league standings since Feb. 12, 1988, when it was tied for the Big Eight lead with Oklahoma. The Wildcats lost to the Sooners the next day.

Sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez said they have to take care of the Cyclones before they worry about Kansas. And he said they’re motivated to do it.

“Iowa State beat us at their house so we’ve definitely got to take care of them at home, got to protect our court,” he said. “And after that we can get ready for KU.”

K-State would have the chance to join a unique group if they won a conference title this season. Texas is the last school to win the conference championship in football and men’s basketball in the same school year, winning the football title game in 2005 and the regular season title in 2006. Oklahoma has done so three times, the last time occurring in 2004-05.

The Wildcats are entering one of the toughest stretches of their schedule now, playing their next six games on Saturday and Monday.

Weber said he hopes it prepares them for later, but admits its tough. Especially when the first two opponents are teams the Wildcats already lost to.

“The next three weeks, you got Saturday, Monday,” he said. “You’re talking NCAA tournament, the one day prep. It’s not an easy thing. With the two teams that beat us, hopefully extra motivation if you want to stay up in the race.”

Weber said the next few games are important for improving the team’s positioning in the RPI and the polls. The Wildcats have nine games left in conference play, and have already played each team except for Baylor. Five of the last nine games are at home.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi ranked the Wildcats as a No. 5 seed in his latest bracketology this week, with the team opening play in Kansas City. Lunardi has the Big 12 getting six of its 10 members into the tournament.

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