Wildcats hope to right ship in Big 12 clash with Longhorns

A pair of Big 12 Conference teams having very different seasons get together on Wednesday night, as the Texas Longhorns come calling on the 18th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats.

Texas has limped its way to a 9-10 overall record, and the team is coming off its first conference win of the season after taking out visiting Texas Tech last Saturday, 73-57. The win put the brakes on a five-game slide for the Longhorns, whose only win of note came in mid-December against North Carolina. Texas has yet to win a true road game this year (0-4), and has won just once outside of Austin all told when you factor in its 1-4 mark in neutral-site affairs.

Kansas State had been cruising right along, staking claim to a 15-2 record heading into last week's showdown with No. 3 Kansas. Unfortunately, the Wildcats suffered a 59-55 loss to their intrastate rivals, and then were stunned this past Saturday at Iowa State, dropping a 73-67 to the upstart Cyclones. At 4-2, K-State is in a three-way tie for third place in the Big 12 along with Iowa State and Oklahoma. The Wildcats are an impressive 11-1 at home this season.

Kansas State leads the all-time series with Texas, 13-10, and the Wildcats have won four of the last six meetings.

Julien Lewis scored 18 points and Ioannis Papapetrou added 15 more, helping Texas snap a five-game losing streak by knocking off Texas Tech at home over the weekend. Other double-digit scorers for the Longhorns included Demarcus Holland (11 points) and Sheldon McClellan (10 points), and the team as a whole shot 46.3 percent from the field, although 12 of its 17 3-point attempts were off the mark. As for the Red Raiders, they made good on only 37.0 percent of their total shots, missing 13 of their 18 long-range launches. UT committed nearly half the number of turnovers TTU did (10-19), and the 'Horns scored 38 points in the paint compared to 22 for the Red Raiders. Much of Texas' issues this season can be attributed to the fact that three true freshmen and two sophomores make up the staring five on most nights, and the team boasts only two double-digit scorers in McClellan (14.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Lewis (11.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Javan Felix average nearly six assist per outing, while Jonathan Holmes serves as the team's leading rebounder with 7.1 rpg. Texas averages just 64.4 ppg, but is one of the top defensive clubs in the Big 12, ranking first in 3-point FG percentage defense (.251), while coming in second in both FG percentage defense (.353) and rebounding (39.0 rpg).

Kansas State is also one of the best defensive teams in the conference, ranking first in both scoring defense (58.2 ppg) and turnover margin (+2.3), and second in 3-point FG percentage defense (.293). None of those impressive figures carried any weight in the recent loss to Iowa State however, as the Cyclones drained 11-of-22 3-point attempts, 48.1 percent of their total shots, and committed only 10 turnovers. Conversely, the Wildcats made good on 7-of-19 long-range bombs and were guilty of 12 miscues. They did shoot 50.9 percent from the field overall, but lost the rebounding battle (35-28) and were outscored at the foul line (10-4). Will Spradling scored 15 points, Rodney McGruder had 13 and Shane Southwell chipped in 11 for KSU, which averages 68.4 ppg while allowing just 58.2 ppg for the season. McGruder (15.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is the only player netting double digits in the scoring column, but five others average between 5.7 and 9.4 ppg.