The Kansas State Wildcats (11-8, 4-2 Big 12) start up another two-game homestand in the MHK, first by hosting the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Pokes recently picked up a 20-point home win against cellar-dweller Texas Tech on Wednesday, breaking a 1-3 stretch in conference play.
K-State last action was another dose of Hilton Magic, dropping tough-fought road game to #9 Iowa State, 77-71. The Cats played their hearts out for 38 minutes, but just couldn't close the deal in the final 120 seconds. Even though it's a mark on the wrong side of the W/L column, you can't complain about effort when you compile 20 assists on 26 made field goals, 15-16 from the charity stripe, and only 10 turnovers. Check here for KSUEMAW!'s recap in my absence. The loss dropped us to 4-2 in Big 12 play, and situates us all alone in 3rd place in the race, a half-game back from Kansas and Iowa State.
Know Your Opponent
Okie Lite (13-5, 3-3 Big 12) are currently tied for 6th in the conference, a full game back of K-State. OSU has, interestingly enough, lost all three road games they've played (Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma), and won all three home games (Texas Tech, Texas, and of course, K-State) in Big 12 play. Frankly, not much has changed with this team since we played them exactly three weeks ago.
Defensively, Oklahoma State is still an above average, maybe even an elite team. They're top-50 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, eFG%, Turnover %, 2PFG%, Block %, and Steal %, and are top-100 in other categories. Exactly where they were 21 days ago.
Solid but not spectacular on offense, the Cowboys can score points. Their accuracy behind the arc (collectively as a team) is somewhat suspect, and they don't rebound the ball very well offensively. Strangely, they're top-50 in quantity of threes they take versus all field goal attempts. They're also below average in assisting on shots, which shows a tendency to play a little more isolation basketball. It'll be important to get to the three-point shooters that can make shots, and keep them off the glass to limit their possessions to one-and-done.
Keep a close watch on:
Not much has changed from last time. LeBryan Nash and Phil Forte still lead the team in scoring at nearly a combined 35 points per game, and are 2nd and 3rd in scoring in the league. Nash and Michael Cobbins still lead the team in rebounding (6.1rpg and 5.7rpg, respectively), and Cobbins is still swatting his share of shots, averaging 2.3bpg (2nd in the league).
The Cowboys play mostly man, with a bit of zone tossed in every now and then to disrupt rhythm or in special circumstances. They pressure passing lanes, turn teams over, and protect the rim pretty well. We've gotta have another solid performance like we have recently, taking care of the ball and playing deliberately on offense. Snappy, smart passes, finding open shooters, and working side/side/in or inside/out to get good looks. Gipson's size can offset the long arms of OSU's interior, and expect Foster to continue working off screens. Nino will have a hard time with much other than loose ball putbacks against them.
The Wildcat defense du jour is always man-to-man. While we're not necessarily running up against the fast-break juggernaut Iowa State is, we most certainly are playing against a team that has the same concept of finding open threes and letting athletic interior players work in space. It is imperative against OSU that our defenders recover quickly when helping off, especially against Forte and Anthony Hickey, and force them to drive or give the ball up.
Kansas State Wildcats:
F Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr
F Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
F Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 205 So
G Marcus Foster, 6-3 210 So
G Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So
Oklahoma State Cowboys:
F LeBryan Nash, 6-7 235 Sr
F Michael Cobbins, 6-8 230 Sr
G Anthony Hickey Jr., 5-11 185 Sr
G Jeff Newberry, 6-2 190 Jr
G Phil Forte III, 5-11 185 Jr
3 Keys To The Game
1. Keep Up The Effort
Even though it's credited as a loss, #EMAW has played above-average to well in the five games since their loss in Stillwater. The effort exhibited at Oklahoma, against Baylor, or even against Iowa State should be good enough to send the Cowboys packing. Remember to three weeks ago - Marcus Foster didn't start, played 14 minutes, and went scoreless for the only time in his collegiate career. Things should be much different this time around.
2. Offensive Efficiency
I doubt Oklahoma State tries to turn this into a track meet, and everyone on the planet knows we won't either. Being efficient with the basketball - assists, good shots, converting at the free throw line - will be a factor in winning. I'd like to see us hit 16 assists, 12 or fewer turnovers, 45% FG shooting or better, and 70% FT shooting to come away with a comfortable win.
3. The Importance of Role Players
Last time we played OSU, they mustered four double-digit scorers: Forte (20), Nash (11), Hickey (10), and Newberry (10). Forte and Nash will find a way to get theirs. We need to do a better job limiting their role players and make sure THEY don't beat us.
At the same time, we're not going to pick up a win with some two-of-three combo of Foster, Gip and Nino. We need to get solid contributions from Wes and Justin Edwards (especially on the glass), possibly a decent game from Stephen Hurt, and have Jevon Thomas not be a complete basketcase out there.
In other words - if our role players outplay theirs, chalk up a Wildcat Victory.
All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.