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Wildcats, Cyclones will see who can bounce back first

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, at 12:26 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, at 5:45 p.m.

No. 11 Kansas State at Iowa State

When: 12:45 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa

Records: KSU 15-3, 4-1 Big 12; ISU 13-5, 3-2

Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM

TV: KSAS, Ch. 4

No. 11 Kansas State at Iowa State

PKansas StateHtYrPtsReb
FShane Southwell6-6Jr.8.13.9
FThomas Gipson6-7So.6.95.8
GRodney McGruder6-4Sr.15.45.1
GAngel Rodriguez5-11So.9.4x-4.8
GWill Spradling6-2Jr.8.2x-3.1

Kansas State (15-3): The Wildcats will try to recover from their first loss in a month in a difficult venue. Iowa State won both meetings against K-State last year. Spradling might have more motivation than the rest of his teammates, going scoreless against Kansas and playing one of his worst games. Southwell has been on a nice scoring streak lately — a 12-point average in his past six games.

PIowa StateHtYrPtsReb
FGeorges Niang6-7Fr.10.84.8
FMelvin Ejim6-6Jr.10.89.5
GWill Clyburn6-7Sr.13.97.5
GChris Babb6-5Sr.8.93.0
GKorie Lucious5-11Sr.10.2X-5.3

x-assists

Iowa State (13-5): Despite a surprising loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday, the Cyclones are having another solid season. Behind coach Fred Hoiberg and guards Lucious and Clyburn, Iowa State has won seven of its last nine games. Its losses were at Kansas and at Texas Tech. As usual, the Cyclones are tough to beat at home. They have won 17 straight at Hilton Coliseum, which is the ninth-best streak in the nation and the fourth-best in program history. Iowa State is one of the nation’s top scoring teams, averaging nearly 80 points.

RPIs as of Friday: K-State 30, ISU 38.

— One team is coming off an emotional loss to a top-five opponent. The other is trying to recover from a shocking defeat against a middling foe.

No. 11 Kansas State and Iowa State are both trying to stabilize after a difficult week.

When they meet Saturday at Hilton Coliseum, focus may be as important as talent or strategy.

“It’s a maturity game for both teams,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “How do you deal with disappointing losses?”

K-State and Iowa State have battled back so far. The Wildcats responded to losses against Michigan and Gonzaga with winning streaks. The Cyclones have lost back-to-back games once, falling to Cincinnati and UNLV on consecutive days in November.

Still, none of those setbacks can rival what they recently endured.

K-State was on a roll before falling 59-55 to Kansas on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum. It had won eight straight and was in position to take over sole possession of first place in the Big 12 standings. The Wildcats played well defensively, but it wasn’t enough. They missed too many open shots and lost a game fans had circled for weeks. Now, K-State is tied for second with Oklahoma and Baylor.

Handling the situation may determine where it finishes in the conference race. Moving on after hosting the Jayhawks hasn’t been a problem lately. K-State has responded with wins in five of the past six seasons. But it can be an awkward transition.

“People look at the KU game as some big game,” senior wing Rodney McGruder said. “You even get people texting you like, ‘Oh man, are you ready?’ When we play Iowa State, I don’t get those same text messages. People do try to amp that KU game up, but you have to treat it like any other game, because you have games after that like Iowa State. You just have to prepare yourself to be ready.”

As a veteran, McGruder knows how to look ahead. As soon as the last game ended, he began talking about the importance of playing well at Iowa State. The Cyclones have won 17 straight at Hilton Coliseum and beat the Wildcats twice last year. A victory could propel them back into second place, and they will be motivated. That’s what a 56-51 loss to Texas Tech, which had won two of its past 24 conference games, will do.

“They are going to come out ready to fight more than they would,” McGruder said. “If they had won that Texas Tech game, they would have come out a little laid back. They are going to come out and try to protect their home court.”

Weber wondered if K-State’s younger players needed to be reminded of that. But those concerns were put to rest when he saw how they reacted when he gave them Wednesday off.

“It showed it meant something,” Weber said. “We had guys in for treatment, we had guys that worked out, we had guys that watched film, we had guys that shot — even on their days off. That’s a positive thing. You can sit and pout about it and have a sourpuss attitude or you can do something about it.”

Looking back won’t help in that area. Winning the next game is the only cure.

“We took a loss,” said junior guard Shane Southwell. “It was a tough loss, and we should have won. But now Saturday is the most important game of our season.”

Check Kellis Robinett’s K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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