K-State ends non-conference schedule with a toughie

12/30/2013 5:10 PM

12/30/2013 5:10 PM

Months ago, when Kansas State released its basketball schedule, it looked like the Wildcats were going to end nonconference play with a home game against a mediocre opponent.

Things played out much differently.

George Washington will visit Bramlage Coliseum at 2 p.m. Tuesday with hopes of landing its fifth victory over a well-known team. The Colonials, who haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2007, are off to their best start in recent years. They are 11-1 with wins over Miami, Creighton, Maryland and Rutgers. It’s easy to see why they are on the verge of breaking into the top 25.

“This is one of the two best teams we’ve played,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Between them and Gonzaga, I’m not sure who is better.”

That will make for an interesting New Year’s Eve. While fans will be able to treat the game as a fun part of their holiday plans, K-State players will need to focus entirely on the task at hand.

They listed an undefeated December as their top goal after a disappointing start, and they have improbably reeled off seven straight victories. They don’t want to see that momentum disappear now, especially with Big 12 games beginning on Saturday.

“We have played on Christmas and we have played on Thanksgiving. It doesn’t make any difference to us if it’s a holiday or not,” K-State guard Will Spradling said. “We just know they are a tough team. We have had struggles with them in the past. Last year we really struggled with them at their place. We have to come ready to play.”

K-State played George Washington in each of the past two years, beating the Colonials 69-56 in 2011 and 65-62 last season.

Behind Maurice Creek, a 6-foot-5 guard who is averaging 16.3 points, and forwards Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood, a pair of skilled big men, they appear to have a team capable of reaching the postseason. They average 77.7 points and make nearly 48 percent of their shots. If not for a neutral-court loss to Marquette, they would be undefeated.

K-State players aren’t taking them lightly.

“They are a tournament team,” K-State guard Shane Southwell said. “It is going to be a big test. It is also gives us another shot at going undefeated in December and then go into league play on a good note. It’s a real big game.”

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