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Feb 4, 2024 11:55 am

No. 8 Kansas heads to Kansas State to face struggling Wildcats

No. 8 Kansas will face Kansas State on Monday night in Manhattan, Kan., with the teams’ seasons trending in opposite directions.

Kansas (18-4, 6-3 Big 12) is coming off a 78-65 victory over No. 4 Houston in front of a frenzied crowd on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan. The Jayhawks will face a Kansas State team (14-8, 4-5) that has lost four straight games after falling to Oklahoma State 75-72 on the road Saturday.

The Jayhawks scored the most points against the Cougars this season. Houston came in averaging 52.9 points allowed per game, and the Jayhawks hit 53 points with 14:17 left in the second half.

“I didn’t anticipate getting off to that good of a start,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We thought the best way to attack them was to use all 50 feet wide and 47 feet long, and then, hopefully, be able to play behind their aggressiveness to start the game. We did that perfectly.”

The Jayhawks led by as many as 20 points in the second half and never saw the lead dip into single digits after that. They shot 68.9 percent from the field against a team that leads the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 36.9 percent.

Kansas State is struggling on offense, especially during the losing streak, averaging just 61 points per game during the past four games. On Saturday, they jumped out quickly, building an eight-point lead on multiple occasions in the first half. But a 12-0 run by Oklahoma State gave the Cowboys the lead, and they never looked back.

Kansas State coach Jerome Tang compared the Wildcats’ current struggles to a popular movie plot.

“‘Die Hard’ wouldn’t be great if Bruce Willis got killed in the first scene,” Tang said. “This is our movie. We can choose to be victims, or we can choose to be stars. We are going to choose to be stars in this movie. We’re going to be the one to determine how it turns out, not somebody else or the narrative or the obstacles that are in our way.”

Cam Carter, Tylor Perry and Arthur Kaluma are the only consistent scorers on the Kansas State roster, and they’re too inconsistent. Perry led the Wildcats against the Cowboys with 19 points, but he was scoreless in the first half. Carter had 17 and Kaluma had 14 against the Cowboys. Carter was held to just five points on 2-for-12 shooting in the Wildcats’ 73-53 loss to Oklahoma earlier in the week.

“Things are not getting away from us,” Tang said after that loss. “We’re in the best league in America, and I’ve said from the very beginning of the year that if you get nine wins in this league, you’re going to the NCAA Tournament. Nothing has changed for us.”

Self knows that it won’t be easy to win in Manhattan, despite Kansas State’s current struggles.

“The atmosphere we’ll play in on Monday will be very comparable to the atmosphere Houston played in today,” he said Saturday. “We’ll have to go over there and play well. Regardless of what’s transpired, I don’t think that will play a big factor in them being excited to play on Monday.”

–Field Level Media

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