MANHATTAN, Kan. — Marcus Foster and Wesley Iwundu have seen the pictures. They’ve heard the stories, too.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
When Kansas State has defeated Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum, its fans have gone bonkers. They poured onto the court in 2008, and Michael Beasley climbed on top of the scorer’s table. They rushed the floor again in 2011 after Jacob Pullen’s epic, 38-point performance.
Those moments look and sound great, but Foster and Iwundu are freshmen. They haven’t felt them firsthand.
“We want to be a part of that, too,” Foster said.
For that to happen when Kansas returns to Bramlage Coliseum tonight, K-State will need to do something it hasn’t done this season: Beat a high-quality opponent on fewer than three days of rest.
The last time K-State played a game under those conditions, things went disastrously. It was late November, and the Wildcats were fewer than 24 hours removed from a loss to Charlotte at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Up next was a challenging matchup with Georgetown. The Wildcats were no match for the Hoyas, losing 90-63.
It was an ugly game — K-State’s worst loss in five years — that Weber blamed on lack of preparation. K-State has five freshmen on its roster and four in its playing rotation. It couldn’t handle the quick turnaround.
“With young guys, we need prep. We didn’t have prep for Georgetown,” Weber said in Puerto Rico. “And coach (John) Thompson challenged them, and they just went at us. It was such a physical game, and we weren’t ready for that. We had no prep and gave them way too many layups. But it’s a learning tool. I hope our young guys learn what it’s about.”
Weber thinks his players are better equipped for a quick turnaround this time.
K-State has since won several matchups with three days between games, including victories over George Washington and Oklahoma. It is also coming off one of its best performances, a 74-57 pounding of Texas on Saturday in which every starter spent the game’s final moments resting on the bench.
The Wildcats have also played the Jayhawks this season, losing 86-60 last month in Lawrence. Weber expects them to be prepared, regardless of preparation time.
“We know what they do,” Weber said. “For Georgetown, we were in a hotel late at night after losing and we were trying to tell them how to guard Princeton’s system and that is hard. Our guys didn’t even know what Princeton’s system was. They had never heard of it. Georgetown just caught us off-guard, but this is different. We have a whole day, and we have already played them.”
Still, K-State players are taking extra precautions to help ensure they are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes for my team to win,” Foster said Saturday. “I will be in treatment and make sure my legs are 100 percent. … You just have got to get your mind right and be happy about the win. Now we have to get focused on Kansas. You can’t sit here and worry about what we did last game.”
Iwundu has gone out of his way to stay off his feet.
“You have to do a better job getting your body recovered and prepared for the next game in a short period of time,” Iwundu said. “The main thing is getting a lot of rest and focusing on the next game.”
In terms of preparation, the Wildcats hope to devise a game plan that will allow them to get their top scorers going. Starters Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson have played sporadically in recent games. They will both need to be at their best against Kansas.
Foster, who scored a career-high 34 points against Texas, will need to continue his recent hot streak. He was a nonfactor at Allen Fieldhouse, scoring seven points on 12 shots. Kansas overwhelmed him on the perimeter. He hopes to learn from that.
“They scouted me really well and knew every move I was going to do,” Foster said. “I pressed myself about it and forced the issue. I tried to do too much and played too selfish. This time I need to relax and continue playing the way I play.”
Weber thinks a solid mental approach may be the most important factor for K-State. He thought the Wildcats were uptight when they lost at home to Kansas last year. They didn’t look confident when they lost at Kansas last month.
And they don’t need rest to solve those issues.
“Bill (Self) does a good job. He has got so many players, so many bodies,” Weber said. “I compare them to the Packers’ old sweep — you know it was coming. Can you stop it? We know what they are going to do, but do we have the energy, bodies and excitement to stop it? We will see Monday night.”