A Monday night home game against No. 8 Kansas represents an opportunity for Kansas State to score a morale-building victory in a season filled with spirit-crushing losses.
Question is: Are the Wildcats, having lost seven of their last eight, mentally capable of beating the Jayhawks two days after suffering their worst setback of the year?
The answer is unclear.
“I’m confident in it,” senior K-State forward Thomas Gipson said, “but it’s not just me. Everybody has to be confident in it. It can’t just be your center. It has to be everybody from the point guard all the way down to the people who come off the bench, all the way down to the staff.”
Gipson thought K-State lacked unity in a 69-42 defeat at Baylor on Saturday. That needs to change before it plays its final three games of the regular season.
Returning home after a lengthy road trip might help. K-State plays its best at home — 11-4 this season — and knocked off No. 17 Oklahoma in its last game at Bramlage Coliseum.
“We’ll see what they’re about,” K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber said. “You have one day, 24 hours, to get your mind right. You got a great crowd. We have played pretty energized at home. Obviously it’s a huge game and hopefully we’ll rise to the occasion and match Kansas on Monday. You just got to get your head right.”
K-State might also find confidence from its victory over Kansas last year in Manhattan. Then again, maybe not.
“That was last year. This is another year,” Gipson said. “We will probably lose by 27. Who knows? We have just got to come out and play hard.”
Playing loose may help, too.
K-State sophomore guard Jevon Thomas thinks the Wildcats will play well if they can forget about their struggles and relax. The Jayhawks jumped out to a big lead over the Wildcats in Lawrence last month and went on to win 68-57, but K-State won the second half 40-35 behind Marcus Foster and Gipson.
Building on that performance is the goal.
“I try to be optimistic no matter what I did this game or what people say or what our record is,” Thomas said. “So my attitude is to keep on playing hard and keep the pressure on Frank Mason and learn from the last Kansas game and keep getting better.
“I think, as a team, we don’t really have anything to lose. Kansas is a big game, a big rivalry game we really take pride in. I think we will bring our all.”
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