Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Kansas State Wildcats in their early-January trip to Lubbock, TX. The Texas Tech Red Raiders jumped out to and early lead, and then kept K-State at arms length the rest of the afternoon. We weren’t even quite sure what to make of Tech at that point. They had only lost one in non-conference play, and had just come home from an improbably victory over KU in Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the week.
Oh, and K-State lost the services of Kamau Stokes near the end of the first half — for what many feared would be the rest of the season. It was early, but K-State looked to be headed down a dark path having lost two straight Big 12 games and with the starting point guard making his home on the bench indefinitely.
Fast forward a little over a month. We are confident in what Texas Tech is now — a legitimate Big 12 title contender who still has a game against co-number one KU in Lubbock later this month. They dropped three of their next four after sweeping the Kansas schools, but are now riding a 5-game win streak that includes a win over Frank Martin’s South Carolina squad. This will be Tech’s first trip outside the Lone Star State since they visited Columbia, SC. On Wednesday night while K-State was busy in battle with Texas, Tech was putting away last-place Iowa State 76-58 to complete their own revenge game from their visit to Ames in late January.
K-State began to look more impressive without Stokes than with him, and reeled off wins in five of their next six games, making it as far up as #2 in the Big 12 standings — and K-State basketball fans were starting to believe again in their team and Bruce Weber. But the Cats, and the euphoria they created, came crashing back to Earth with a two-game span of vicious losses at home to KU then on the road to West Virginia — the latter being K-State’s worst loss in 15 years. But the Cats got back up off the mat, and managed to do just enough right to pull out a much-needed 67-64 victory over the Longhorns in Austin on Wednesday night. Things weren’t great, but all five starters scored in double-figures for the first time since the opening game of the season, including Barry Brown, who, with 11 points on the night, scored 10 more than during the game in Morgantown.
They key for the Wildcats tonight will be to prevent another big early deficit, and hopefully use the increased depth of having Kamau Stokes back to keep Brown and Cartier Diarra a little fresher.
Also, K-State has Big 12 Fate on it’s side, as it is up the Wildcats to make sure that KU still has a shot at winning the Big 12 title by pulling off surprise victories over the other contenders. It’s a thing, and we hate it just like everyone not rooting for the team in Lawrence does. Sorry, Tech, it’s your turn.
Tonight’s game, scheduled for a 7 p.m. CST tip-off, will be on ESPNU/ESPN3 with Mitch Holthus (play-by-play) and Bryndon Manzer (analyst) on the call. Be sure and check out Jon Morse’s full How To Watch post for more details.
The game can be heard over-the-air on the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) on the call (you can also listen online for free at TuneIn.com or at KStateSports.com). Satellite radio is available on Sirius/XM 84, and “Internet” 84.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Kansas State (17-7, 6-5 Big 12)
G: #2 Cartier Diarra
G: #5 Barry Brown Jr.
G: #20 Xavier Sneed
F: #32 Dean Wade
F: #14 Makol Mawien
7/7 Texas Tech (20-4, 8-3 Big 12)
G: #12 Keenan Evans
G: #2 Zhaire Smith
G: #5 Justin Gray
G: #23 Jarrett Culver
C: #32 Norense Odiase