Manhattan, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - One of three teams in the Big 12 Conference tied for second place in the standings, the 12th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones are set to battle the Kansas State Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
With just three games remaining in the regular season, the Cyclones are one of several teams still vying for the conference title. Along with West Virginia and Oklahoma, Iowa State is one game behind first-place Kansas entering the weekend and with several games left for all those involved, there's no telling how this will turn out.
The Cyclones had a chance to match the Jayhawks at 11-4 three nights ago, but came up short against 19th-ranked Baylor at home in a 79-70 final. The defeat snapped a three-game win streak for ISU.
Playing in their final home game of the season, the Wildcats are in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings with a mark of 7-9, but still have a chance to reach .500 with one more road game versus Texas on the schedule. The team has won just twice during the month of February, one of those triumphs being a stunning 70-63 upset of eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night at home.
These familiar foes are meeting for the 220th time, with the Wildcats owning a 136-83 advantage in the all-time series. The Cyclones have won two straight and six of the last eight encounters overall, but in Manhattan they've posted just 22 victories in 101 opportunities over the years.
Perimeter shooting told the story for the Cyclones during their meeting with Baylor earlier this week, as the Bears converted an impressive 14-of-26 (.538) from the outside and ISU was a mere 6-of-24 (.250), en route to the nine-point decision at Hilton Coliseum. Jameel McKay scored 21 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked four shots, all of which were game highs, but still the Cyclones had to absorb the home defeat. Georges Niang added 14 points, but missed all five of his 3-point tries, followed by Matt Thomas with 13 points off the bench.
Niang tends to be the one to watch for the Cyclones as he scored 13.7 ppg in conference play, thanks to 41.2 percent shooting from long range. However, he is also one of the better rebounders with 5.3 boards per contest and us second on the unit with 45 assists. Monte Morris checks in with 11.3 ppg and paces the program in both assists (84) and steals (25) when going up against the rest of the Big 12, where ISU is outscoring foes by 4.4 ppg thanks to 47.7 percent accuracy from the field.
The fans charged the floor on Monday night at Bramlage after the Wildcats captured the seven-point win over in-state rival Kansas, thanks in large part to Nigel Johnson who tallied 20 points off the bench. Johnson knocked down not only 8-of-11 shots from the field, he also connected on 4-of-5 behind the 3- point line. Nino Williams tacked on 15 points and Thomas Gipson 12, the latter clearing a team-best six rebounds for a squad that held the visitors to just 39.3 percent shooting from the field, 2-of-13 behind the 3-point line.
The win over Kansas was surprising on a number of levels, although it was a perfect example of how anything can happen when rivals get together in the heat of battle. In conference play this season, KSU is a solid 6-2 at home, but just 1-7 on the road, which could have some influence on their outing versus the Longhorns. Marcus Foster is listed as the top scorer with 12.2 ppg but he has converted just 25.7 percent of his 3-point tries and that has brought the entire unit down to only 31.3 percent on the outside.