Just a freshman, Quentin Grimes has yet to experience a Kansas-Kansas State basketball game in Bramlage Coliseum.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard from The Woodlands, Texas has heard plenty of stories, however, about what to expect Tuesday night when the No. 13-ranked Jayhawks (17-5, 6-3 Big 12) take on the unranked Wildcats (16-5, 6-2) in an 8 p.m. tip in Manhattan.
“It’s probably going to be the toughest environment we’ve played in all year. They don’t like us. We don’t like them, so it’s definitely going to probably be the craziest atmosphere we’ve played in this year,” Grimes said Monday.
KU, which has won back-to-back-to back games at Bramlage and is 26-4 there all-time, enters with a 1-5 record in true road games this season — 1-3 on the road in the league.
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Meanwhile, K-State is 10-1 at home — 3-1 in Big 12 games and 7-0 in nonconference.
“We’ve actually experienced a decent amount of success there, not as much as we’d like,” said KU coach Bill Self, whose teams are 11-4 at Bramlage.
“The students are definitely into it. The fans are definitely into it. It’s a tremendous homecourt when K-State plays us there. No question we have a great homecourt when they come here to play, too. We should expect that. It’s a big rivalry game.
“The thing that makes it as tough as possible going into tomorrow is the stakes are high. If they are successful tomorrow night you can make a case that they kind of put themselves in the position maybe better than anybody else to win the league. If we go over there and take care of business then we would put ourselves in a decent position.
“I don’t want to say we don’t have any margin for error because who knows what the winning record will be (in league race), but we have a lot less margin for error because we stubbed our toe a couple times. The guys should be well aware K-State is a game up on us along with Baylor in the loss column. They should be aware of that.”
Kansas State and Baylor will enter Tuesday’s game with 6-2 conference records — indeed a game in the loss column ahead of the Jayhawks, who are seeking a 15th-straight regular-season league title. A K-State victory Tuesday would make the Wildcats 7-2 in the league and KU 6-4.
“We’re going to start three freshmen (Grimes, Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson). They’re going to start three seniors (Barry Brown, Dean Wade, Kamau Stokes),” said Self, noting KU sophomore guard Marcus Garrett likely will miss his second straight game because of a left ankle sprain. Self is hoping he’ll be back for Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma State.
Self noted that K-State starters Xavier Sneed and Makol Mawien are juniors. KU counters with junior Dedric Lawson and senior Lagerald Vick.
“I think that’s obviously you’d think an advantage for them,” Self said of experience, “but this time of year so many of those things are a little bit overrated.”
KU once again must attempt to stop the inside/out combination of Wade and Brown. Wade scored 22 points while Brown had 12 points with six assists and five rebounds in KU’s 73-72 win on Jan. 13, 2018 in Lawrence; Wade had 20 points and Brown nine points, five assists and four turnovers in KU’s 70-56 victory on Jan. 29, 2018 at Bramlage.
“We haven’t had a ton (of success) guarding him,” Self said of Wade, a 6-10, 228-pound forward from St. John, Kan. “He’s a good player. I’m not saying we could have gotten him (to attend KU) by any stretch. Certainly that was a situation looking back that I wish we certainly would have tried a lot harder (in recruiting). You say, ‘Well good gosh we didn’t recruit him,’ but you also have Dedric. Two of the best players in our league are similar type players — both inside guys who can play away from the basket. He’s a good athlete without question. Did he win Big 12 player of the week?” added Self, who was told Baylor’s Makai Mason instead took that honor with KU’s Agbaji newcomer of the week.
“Anytime you go 9-for-9 and score 24, that’s about as perfect as you can get,” Self added of Wade’s stats in K-State’s 75-57 rout of Oklahoma State on Saturday in Stillwater.
K-State hit 16 threes in that game, a K-State record for a conference game. KU hit 13 threes in Saturday’s 79-63 home victory over Texas Tech.
KU’s Grimes cashed two threes against the Red Raiders and had four assists versus no turnovers in having one of his better games of late.
“I do see some positives moving forward in things other than scoring,” Self said of Grimes, who averages 8.1 points per game on 40 percent shooting. “He had nine paint touches off the bounce against Texas Tech. The game before (at Texas) he had one. There are some positive things taking place that hopefully will be good moving forward.”
Grimes noted that his freshman season, “has definitely been a struggle for sure. There’s always been a couple games I broke out and I’ve shown what I can do. It’s definitely been a struggle (with) ups and downs. I feel it’s going good. I’m staying in the gym, not down on myself. I feel I’m on the right track, moving in the right direction. I think it’ll go well for me and the team moving forward.”
KU snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday at home versus Texas Tech. Now the Jayhawks will see if they can start improving their record on the road.
“We’ve got to go in with the same energy we had against Texas Tech and stay together,” said guard Charlie Moore, who had six assists off the bench versus the Red Raiders. “If we do that we should be ready and we should make that happen.”
Told KU is 26-4 all-time at Bramlage, Moore noted: “Oh man, that’s great. That’s amazing. We’ve got to go into the game, play hard and give it all we’ve got so we can keep that streak alive.”