Kansas State University

K-State ready for biggest challenge

MANHATTAN — From Puerto Rico to Las Vegas, the Kansas State basketball team has seen nearly every road environment imaginable this season.

The Wildcats have faced mid-major opponents in front of mostly empty seats, struggling Big 12 foes with close to 1,000 purple-clad supporters on hand and ranked squads with above-average crowds in attendance.

Through it all, K-State has won 11 of 13 games away from Bramlage Coliseum and proven itself in enemy territory.

Still, the Wildcats are yet to experience a road environment like the one Allen Fieldhouse will provide on Wednesday.

Now ranked No.5, the Wildcats' bi-annual showdown with No. 2 Kansas is more than just a rivalry game. Conference championships and NCAA Tournament seedings all could be affected by the outcome.

Throw in 16,300 fans — the largest crowd K-State has played in front of by nearly 4,000 — and a motivated group of Jayhawks playing on Senior Day and coming off their first conference loss, and the Wildcats will face a combination of opponent and crowd they have yet to experience.

"Their crowd is going to be amped up and ready to go just like our crowd was when they came here," said leading scorer Jacob Pullen. "It's going to be different."

K-State players say, despite the higher stakes and decibel level, their approach won't change.

"It's a big game, but it's just another game on our schedule," sophomore forward Jamar Samuels said. "There's nothing different we have to do. We're an excellent road team."

Added junior forward Curtis Kelly: "Just focus on the task at hand. All them things that are extra don't even matter."

K-State coach Frank Martin couldn't agree more. He is talking about Wednesday's showdown the same he way talked about Saturday's victory over Missouri.

For the second time in a week, he is calling the upcoming game "the biggest game we've ever played at K-State."

This week, it's hard to disagree. Downplaying the magnitude of the first Sunflower Showdown involving a pair of top 5 teams since 1958 is nearly impossible.

"I look at that as great pressure," Martin said. "I look at that as their hard work has paid off, that they've put themselves in that conversation, that something great could happen to this basketball team."