Who: #6 Oklahoma State (12-1) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (10-3)
Where: Bramlage Coliseum; Manhattan, Kansas
When: Saturday at 3 p.m.
Kansas State Wildcats ended their non-conference schedule against George Washington on New Year’s Eve with a 72-55 win. The victory brings momentum into their Big 12 conference opener against #6 Oklahoma State. Since K-State’s poor performance in Puerto Rico, Bruce Weber’s team has rattled off eight-straight wins, including big wins over Ole Miss and #21 Gonzaga.
The Wildcats’ success has been based off of a balanced attack on offense and a stellar defense, which has been very tough to score against. Shane Southwell is playing very well right now and it comes at the right time for the Wildcats. Southwell, after tying his career high in scoring for two consecutive games, finally broke it with 21 points against the Colonials.
Weber and the ‘Cats now welcome Big 12 conference opponent, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, led by Freshman of the Year from a year ago, Marcus Smart. Smart, who is a National Player of the Year Candidate, will be a very tough match-up for the Wildcats.
With Kansas State playing great basketball right now, Saturday’s game in Manhattan should be entertaining. Last season, these same two teams squared off in the opener with K-State taking that one. What will happen this time around?
Mixing It Up
Southwell, Thomas Gipson, and freshman Marcus Foster have taken the offense to another level entering the contest against the veteran team from Stillwater. The Wildcats are looking to take some of that confidence they have built up over the last month and put it to the test. Foster has put up double digits in scoring in eleven straight games. Gipson on the defensive end has been a force down low since missing the first few games of the season due to injury.
With help from Wesley Iwundu, Will Spradling, Nigel Johnson, and others, Kansas State needs to play near perfect ball to beat one of the top teams in the nation. Everyone needs to contribute. Jevon Thomas has been a big spark off the bench for K-State in his first two games, and could be key to a Wildcats victory if he can handle Smart’s physical style.
This will be a physical game like last year; the Wildcats will need to be ready for the challenge. K-State has a physical defense themselves as proven in the latter part of non-conference season. KSU held the potent Colonials to nearly 22 points under their scoring average with a season-low 55 points on 34 percent shooting. George Washington managed to shoot just 20 percent (5-of-25) from the field in the second half. The Wildcats have now held 11 of their last 12 opponent to their season low in points. The ‘Cats will need to be at their best Saturday afternoon against players like Smart, Markell Brown, LaBryan Nash. These guys are not the Colonials!
X-Factor: Thomas Gipson
Gipson has been huge in his resurgence during the eight game winning streak for Kansas State. He will have his hands full against a very talented and athletic front court for Oklahoma State. Gipson will need to continue to play as he has of late – score with the basketball and be a monster inside. Gipson had eight rebounds and 12 points versus George Washington. He needs to at least match that for the Wildcats to have a chance.