AMES, Iowa — Shane Southwell can remember what it feels like to be on a winning streak, but it's been a while since the freshman guard was part of one.
The last time Kansas State won consecutive basketball games was in early January. The last time it won on the road, a key to sustaining any winning streak during conference play, was in early December. So much has changed since then.
"That was a long, long time ago," Southwell said. "Last season, it feels like. We've got to get back to that."
Indeed, if the Wildcats are to finish off their disappointing season strong and make a run at the NCAA Tournament, they will need to string a few victories together. That means winning games away from home and working their way up the Big 12 standings, which are being overrun with parity.
The Wildcats have struggled in both areas lately, but are coming off a blowout win over Nebraska and have won two of their last three games. Players say practices have been especially encouraging since Wally Judge decided to quit the team earlier in the week.
"We are more united right now than we've been all year, by far," Southwell said. "With the team (trimming) down, it's been great. Everybody is fighting for the same cause. Momentum-wise, we've been doing pretty well. We just don't have the wins to show for it yet."
That could change today. K-State is favored as it takes on Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones have lost five straight games and are at the bottom of the Big 12.
It is a game all serious contenders find ways to win. But K-State coach Frank Martin respects Iowa State too much to feel too good about his chances.
"You don't want to go play competitors when they've been losing," Martin said. "They're never in a good mood."
Still, this is a game the Wildcats badly need to win, for reasons big and small.
On the big side of things, a win would inch their record back to where they hoped it would be at the beginning of the season, when they were picked to win the Big 12 by its coaches. It would give them momentum with a week off between games.
"Getting this win would be so nice," assistant coach Brad Underwood said. "Winning on the road is very difficult, and our next two are on the road. It's going to be tough. But I'm excited, because we're playing well right now and next week we have a bye. It will give us the chance to have some great, quality practice time and really improve heading into the end of the season."
On the small side of things, a win would give them two in a row. And no team can get on a winning streak without first accomplishing that feat.
That's something that hasn't escaped players' minds this week.
"It would be really important for our team as a whole," junior Victor Ojeleye said. "It's always important to build on momentum whenever you can get, and we have it right now. Just to get another road win like we did earlier in the year would be great. You've got to think of every small step."