Austin, TX – With their sights set squarely on winning the Big 12 Conference regular-season title, the 13th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats have come to the Lone Star State to tangle with the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night.
At 21-5 overall and 10-3 in the Big 12, Kansas State is in first-place tie with bitter rival Kansas, and both are just a game up on Oklahoma State, and two ahead of both Iowa State and Oklahoma. The Wildcats took care of visiting West Virginia on Monday, 71-61, to run their current win streak to two games, and they've now been victorious in six of their last seven. K-State is 5-2 on the road this season, 6-4 outside of Manhattan all told when you factor in three neutral-site affairs.
Simply put, Texas has underachieved this year, the team logging a 12-14 overall record, and only four of its 13 league tilts have resulted in victory. The Longhorns are fighting to stay out the Big 12 basement, and it's a safe assumption that unless they go on some kind of miraculous run, a favorable postseason draw is a pipedream. UT managed to knock off last-place TCU earlier this week, 68-59, but it was only its second win in the last five games. The 'Horns are 10-3 at home this season, and they've won four of their last five in Austin.
Kansas State owns a 14-10 lead in the all-time series with Texas, which includes an 83-57 shellacking of the Longhorns in Manhattan on Jan. 30 of this year.
K-State's bread and butter is it's ability to shut down the opposition like few teams can, the Wildcats laying claim to the Big 12's best scoring defense (59.5 ppg). When the team plays facing the basket, it generates an average of 69.1 ppg, thanks in large part to its 36.3 percent effort from 3-point range (second in the conference). Rodney McGruder paces the club with 14.8 ppg, and he is tied (Thomas Gipson) for the team-lead in rebounding with 5.3 rpg. Angel Rodriguez is known more for his passing ability (5.1 apg), but he is netting 10.7 ppg despite shooting just 36.1 percent from the floor overall, and 31.8 percent from beyond the arc. Will Spradling matched his career high with 19 points, and four others reached double figures as well, as the Wildcats topped the West Virginia Mountaineers by 10 points earlier this week. Nino Williams came off the bench to tally 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, helping the team drop 50.0 percent of its field goal attempts, which included six treys. The 'Cats went an efficient 19-of-23 at the foul line, while holding WVU to 40.5 percent field goal accuracy, and a mere four 3-pointers on 13 attempts. K- State won the game despite committing 18 turnovers and narrowly losing the rebounding battle, 28-27.
Texas is averaging nearly the same number of points on offense (63.9 ppg) as it does on defense (63.5 ppg). The team now has three double-digit scorers on which to rely, as Sheldon McClellan (13.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Myck Kabongo (12.7 ppg) and Julien Lewis (10.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg) have been productive players when given the opportunity. Kabongo has only played in three games since ending a lengthy suspension, and Javan Felix serves as the club's primary playmaker with his 5.0 apg. Texas is guilty of 15.5 miscues per outing, and it ranks last in the league in turnover margin (-2.0). Ioannis Papapetrou was high man for the 'Horns in their recent win at TCU, netting 15 points, while Connor Lammert added 13 and Kabongo had 12. Kabongo dished out seven assists, while Lammert led the rebounding effort with seven. Collectively, UT shot 50 percent from the floor, hitting 7-of-18 long-range tries along the way, and it outscored the Horned Frogs in the paint (32-26) and in bench points (17-9).