Bruce Weber made one thing clear after Kansas State beat Kansas on Monday: The Wildcats played with ideal enthusiasm and energy.
So it goes without saying that Weber, K-State’s third-year coach, wants that to continue Saturday when K-State plays host to No. 12 Iowa State at Bramlage Coliseum. What might surprise you is that he is asking his players to kick things up a notch against the Cyclones.
“You might almost need a better energy level. These guys are so good offensively with so many weapons,” Weber said. “Not that Kansas isn’t good, but Kansas has good, solid defense and good, solid offense, where these guys are so well-schooled offensively that they spread you out. We will need a great effort.
“But whether it is Kansas or Oklahoma or Baylor, when we are at home we seem to play better and with great energy using the crowd. Iowa State is not going to be easy. We are going to have to be hooked up.”
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That may be difficult. Playing with maximum effort was simple against Kansas. Students camped out all day for the Sunflower Showdown and then filled the arena with noise, roaring after every positive play and rushing the court to celebrate a victory.
It was the game of the year for everyone involved. That’s not always easy to move past.
“It is hard,” senior forward Nino Williams said. “I think we are going to have a pretty good crowd. It is just the whole rivalry, the Sunflower Showdown, it is big. I think (Iowa State) is not going to be a game like Kansas, but the crowd is going to be into it. It’s a weekend game and … it will be a packed house. We should just feed off the crowd like we did Monday night.
“After you beat Kansas, everybody is having a high and everyone is feeling good. A lot of guys have confidence now.”
Past victories over Kansas have led to mixed results.
The Wildcats beat the Jayhawks a year ago to more or less wrap up a spot in the NCAA Tournament — and then fell on hard times, losing six of their final nine games last season.
Things were different in 2011. That year, a late victory over Kansas sparked a six-game winning streak that pushed K-State from the NCAA Tournament bubble all the way up to a No. 5 seed.
Sophomore guard Nigel Johnson thinks K-State is capable of ending the season strong.
“The ultimate goal, of course, is to make the tournament,” Johnson said. “We have beaten a lot of top 25 teams, maybe the most in the country (third, according to RPI figures) and then we also have one of the strongest schedules in the country. If we can end the season on a positive note, we can make the tournament. I don’t know what kind of seeding we can get, but I think we can make it.”
Williams is more worried about simply beating Iowa State, a team K-State lost to at Hilton Coliseum earlier this season.
Iowa State won that game 77-71. Things might have been different with more enthusiasm and energy from K-State, which is 14-15 overall and 7-9 in the Big 12.
“I have never been under .500, so I am just trying to get to .500 and get over .500,” Williams said. “You just never know. Anything can happen. You can go out and play hot and win the Big 12 Tournament, or you can go win a couple games. You never know. It is out of your hands. You just have to try and play well and play your hardest at the end of the season when it matters most.”