PITTSBURGH — When Southern Mississippi and Kansas State look at each other, for the most part, they see themselves.
“I think we’re in for an absolute fight,” K-State coach Frank Martin said.
Both teams play hard-nosed defense, scramble for loose balls, get to the foul line frequently and rebound the basketball. The only difference is the Wildcats have more size.
“The two things that Southern Miss does very, very well in my opinion in the vast majority of their games: They win all the 50-50 possessions — get to all the 50-50 balls. They take a ton of charges, may have taken as many, if not more charges than us,” K-State associate head coach Brad Underwood said. “And they do an unbelievable job of attacking the offensive glass. I think 37-38 percent of their baskets come on the offensive glass.
“Their philosophies are similar to ours. They go about it a little different, but they’re going to guard you. They’re going to rebound, they’re going to get to the foul line.”
The Golden Eagles rank 42nd in the country in rebounding margin, outworking their opponents on the boards by 4.6 per game; K-State ranks 35th in rebounding margin with a 4.9 per-game advantage.
Southern Miss, which starts four guards, averages 23 free-throw attempts per game; K-State averages 24.
Both teams take pride in playing with relentless effort, and it’s why both coaches enjoy watching each other’s teams on tape.
“I can just keep watching Kansas State all night because I think they play the right way,” Southern Miss head coach Larry Eustachy said. “They play hard, they play physical. They do not take a play off. I think it’s two similarities.
“I hope we’re as tough as them because I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
The Golden Eagles spread the floor with their four-guard, one-big lineup, which is something K-State has seen before against Missouri twice and Long Beach State. The Wildcats won all three of those games.
“Just in terms of athleticism they remind me of Long Beach in that they’re a little undersized but they’re just so athletic,” Underwood said. “The small lineup — the guards — reminds me a lot of Missouri. They’re very similar in terms of their concepts, their dribble drives. They’ll spread you. Those two teams I see a lot of the same types of things as we’ve seen before.”
The Wildcats hope the results are the same tomorrow. And if that’s going to be the case, K-State will need to be the tougher team.
“We’re exactly like Kansas State,” Southern Miss guard Angelo Johnson said. “We like playing physical and it’s going to be a physical game Thursday. I think the tougher team is going to win.”