It’s an all-basketball Tuesday as Kansas State heads to Austin, seeking to avenge its worst loss of the season, a 67-47 blowout by the Longhorns in the conference opener at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats, who were playing Texas without Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes, led the game, 35-34, at the 11:40 mark of the second half. But Texas reserve guard Jace Febres got hot, to the tune of 7-9 shooting from outside, while K-State’s offense stagnated. The Longhorns finished the game on a 33-12 run to make a once competitive game a laugher.
The Wildcats have looked like a different team since then, of course. After a 7-point loss at Texas Tech, and after getting down by 21 against West Virginia before storming back to win, the ‘Cats have reeled off eight straight wins to lead the Big 12 with an 8-2 conference record. Since neither the Sooners nor the Horned Frogs could preserve late leads against contenders Baylor and KU on Monday, K-State needs the win over the Longhorns to preserve its 2-game lead in the loss column.
The hot streak has not gone unnoticed. After beating both the KU Jayhawks and the Baylor Bears last week, K-State was rewarded with a return to the NCAA basketball polls, jumping from the ranks of the unranked all the way up to number 18. Conference mates KU (14) Texas Tech (15) and Iowa State (23) joined them in the AP poll. Having clawed their way back in to the rankings, and sitting atop the Big 12 standings, the Wildcats will need to bring focus to every game. In K-State Sports Extra, Corbin McGuire writes that Kamau Stokes and his teammates are “staying in the present,” paying attention only to the game at hand.
Stokes has been a steadying presence over the winning streak. Kellis Robinett debated what the identity of the “other” senior, who averages 10.3 points and 3.5 assists per game, would be if all of K-State’s players were members of the Justice League.
While the Wildcats will be looking for revenge in Texas, the Longhorns look to kick off a week that could shift the team’s momentum, starting with taking down the Big 12 leaders. Players are hoping fans will “rock the ‘Drum’” for the game, though Texas has never been known for its raucous atmosphere.
In some late-breaking bad news for K-State, Cartier Diarra did not make the trip and will not play tonight, due to a finger injury. The redshirt sophomore had been playing well for K-State and authored the two most memorable plays against the Jayhawks and the Bears. His athleticism and play-making ability off the bench will be missed. Next man up, Mike McGuirl.