Jayhawks and Wildcats mix it up in Manhattan
Manhattan, KS – Sunflower State rivals square off in Manhattan this evening, as the Kansas Jayhawks pay a visit to the Kansas State Wildcats in an important Big 12 Conference clash.
After a December 19 loss to Davidson, Kansas reeled off a 10-game win streak to reassert itself as one of the top teams in the country. The Jayhawks experienced a bit of a setback by losing two of three to Iowa State and nationally-ranked Missouri -- both on the road -- but have bounced back with impressive wins last week against Baylor and Oklahoma State. They are 10-2 in Big 12 play, tying them with Missouri for first place in the conference standings.
Kansas State started the season red-hot, winning 11 of its first 12 games, but after losing to Kansas in the first meeting of the season back on January 4, things began to unravel. The Wildcats have lost five of their last 11 games, including a 75-64 final to Texas on Saturday. Their 6-6 conference record is respectable, but disappointing considering the early success they enjoyed in being considered among the nationally-ranked at one point.
Kansas has doubled up Kansas State in the all-time series, 182-91. The Jayhawks have been especially dominant over their in-state rival the past few decades, winning 43 of the last 46 meetings, including a 67-49 triumph in Lawrence a little more than five weeks ago.
Kansas has excelled at both ends of the floor this season, ranking second in the Big 12 in scoring (75.3 ppg) and points allowed (61.2 ppg), and its +14.2 scoring margin is bested only by Missouri's +16.2. Bill Self's squad continued to be highly efficient in Saturday's win over Oklahoma State by connecting on 30-of-62 field goal attempts, while holding the Cowboys to just 32.7 percent shooting from the floor. The Jayhawks were led by a pair of monster efforts from Thomas Robinson (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Jeff Withey (18 points, career-high 20 boards). Robinson has been arguably the most dominant player in the Big 12 this year, ranking second in both scoring (18.1 ppg) and field goal percentage (.549) while leading the conference in rebounds (12.1 rpg) and collecting 18 double-doubles on the campaign. Tyshawn Taylor is a great playmaker from the outside, netting 16.8 ppg, dishing out 5.1 apg, and draining 42.7 percent of his three-point attempts. Withey adds 9.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, and a conference-best 3.2 blocks per game to the mix.
Kansas State's defensive effort has been impressive this season, ranking third in both points allowed per game (63.2) and field goal percentage defense (.397), but while the team averages a solid 72.4 ppg, it ranks in the bottom- third of the league in field goal percentage (.439), three-point field goal percentage (.333), and free-throw percentage (.661). The shooting attack has been lackluster in recent weeks as the Wildcats have scored 70 points or fewer in seven straight games, culminating in a 41.4 percent effort from the field in Saturday's loss to Texas. Angel Rodriguez led the team with 15 points, but also turned the ball over six times. Rodney McGruder ranks sixth in the Big 12 in scoring with 14.6 ppg, while also contributing 5.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, and 1.4 three-pointers per contest. Will Spradling (10.4 ppg, 2.6 apg) and Jamar Samuels (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) have also been effective contributors on a nightly basis. K-State generally takes pretty good care of the basketball, ranking second in the conference with a +1.62 turnover margin.