Since taking over as Kansas State basketball coach in 2007, Frank Martin has won games as far away as Hawaii and as close as Kansas City. But he has never won in Lawrence.
The Wildcats have traveled to Allen Fieldhouse four times to play Kansas under Martin and are 0-4. Each defeat has followed a similar pattern, with Kansas jumping out to a large lead, K-State making a second-half push and then the Jayhawks pulling away to win by 14 or more points.
K-State, a visitor in Allen again tonight, is also winless at Oklahoma State and Missouri under Martin, but unlike playing on the road against those teams, it's not hard for him to explain why the Wildcats have struggled in Lawrence.
"There's three major challenges," Martin said. "Bill Self and his coaching staff, the players and the culture they've built. Then, obviously, the 16,000 people in the stands that just don't let you communicate with your players. That's what you face every time you go in there."
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Junior forward Rodney McGruder has been a part of K-State's past two losses — an 82-65 setback in 2010 and a 90-66 defeat last season — and understands the challenge.
"We just have to play our game and not get wrapped up in the noise or atmosphere," he said.
Though the Wildcats have won five of six games away from home this season, they haven't seen a raucous road crowd yet.
When they won at Virginia Tech, the majority of Hokies fans were still out of town the day after their football team played in the ACC championship game. When they won the Diamond Head Classic, they did so in front of sparse crowds. When they played West Virginia at Intrust Bank Arena and Alabama at Sprint Center, they benefited from great home crowds.
That won't be the case tonight.
"Their team plays to it every single time they take their home court, and their crowd is amazing," Martin said. "It makes it an incredible challenge for us and everyone else that goes in there."