Blair Kerkhoff

K-State needs to be better than its best against Kansas on Monday

Updated: 2014-02-09T05:40:28Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

— The greatest Kansas State basketball player of the last quarter century leaped on the scorers’ table to celebrate and avoid the crush of student humanity that flooded the floor.

Three years later, the program’s career scoring leader played the game of his life and dropped in 38 points.

There you have it. The greatest player, Michael Beasley, and the greatest scorer, Jacob Pullen, were required to overtake the Wildcats’ biggest rival — Kansas — in Bramlage Coliseum. It hasn’t happened otherwise in the last 25 years in the building, and the previous five years in the Little Apple before then.

There’s nothing else like it in major-college basketball, Kansas’ command of Kansas State on the Wildcats’ floor.

But if there was ever an occasion for a short memory for K-State, it is now. Not just because the longer view when it comes to Monday’s Sunflower State clash is loaded with failure, but because the most recent exercise was such a positive.

Saturday, Kansas State pummeled 15th-ranked Texas so convincingly in a 74-57 outcome, coach Bruce Weber was able to get freshman guard Marcus Foster out of game with more than 4 minutes remaining or else he might have made a play for Beasley’s freshman record for points in a game.

Foster fell 10 short, finishing with 34 in one of the top offense games in the Big 12 this season. He admits to nerves in the game’s opening minutes and has told coaches in previous outings he needs to come out and catch his breath.

This time, Foster left the Longhorns breathless with two three-pointers and a slam from Wesley Iwundu slam in the first 3 minutes. Bramlage was rocking, and the Wildcats never pumped the brakes.

The advantage climbed to 18-4 and then to 37-14. Foster was the focal point, but the offense was moving so smooth and quickly, the Wildcats needed to record hockey assists, the pass that leads to the pass for the score.

Defensively, Kansas State made things miserable for Texas with perimeter pressure that affected passes to the interior. The passes were off or late and ended up in Wildcats’ hands to start transition. At halftime, K-State had nine steals, and by the game’s end Texas had committed 18 turnovers.

“We were in the zone,” Weber said.

Texas coach Rick Barnes’ seconded the motion.

“They beat us every way we could be beat,” he said.

If Kansas State fans could only hear Bill Self say that.

The moments ticked away Saturday and Kansas State had done the Jayhawks a huge favor. Entering the weekend, Texas stood one game behind Kansas, and nobody else was closer than three games.

The Wildcats gave their rival more space in the standing after the Jayhawks put away pesky West Virginia later in the day. But Kansas State can yank the cushion right back with a victory on Monday.

Could it happen? The teams met in January and produced the most lopsided margin for both teams this season, a business-as-usual 26-point Kansas triumph in Allen Fieldhouse.

The transitive property has made one round —Kansas beat Kansas State, which split with the Longhorns but walloped them Saturday, and the Texas whipped the Jayhawks —and maybe that bodes well for the Wildcats.

But anybody with purple in their veins knows the math has worked for them on the home floor only in the most extreme, with Beasley and Pullen’s best.

Maybe Foster and Kansas State have something left from Saturday. After all, he and the other freshmen have never lost at home to the Jayhawks. They’ve seen the photo of Beasley celebrating, and they know of Pullen’s accomplishment. K-State has needed to be that good to walk off its home floor with a triumph over its rival. And as good as the Wildcats were on Saturday, they’ll need to be better on Monday.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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