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Sunflower Showdown: Players to Watch

All eyes will be on Bramlage Coliseum Monday night as K-State battles No. 8 Kansas on ESPN’s Big Monday. The contest marks the 297th installment of the Sunflower Showdown, the second of the 2013-14 season.

The Jayhawks cruised to an easy 86-60 victory in the first game on Jan. 11 in Allen Fieldhouse. The result gave us a good look at the players to look for in Monday’s all-important sequel.

K-State

Freshman guard Marcus Foster

Foster struggled to find his usual groove in the first meeting between the in-state rivals. The freshman shot just 3-12 from the field, ending the afternoon with seven points.

Despite that performance, don’t expect the Kansas defense to fall asleep on him. Foster enters the game averaging 14.7 points per contest, and is coming off his best outing yet as a Wildcat when he went for 34 points against the Texas Longhorns Saturday.

The K-State leading scorer will have to forget his freshman status once more and step up with a big performance to give the Wildcats an opportunity to steal a win at home.

Junior forward Thomas Gipson

It was probably the quietest 10 points and four rebounds in Gipson’s K-State career earlier this year against Kansas.

The six-foot-seven-inch junior managed to stay out of foul trouble in the first half, but Gipson found himself ineffective as the game wore on and the Wildcats offense became less efficient.

The junior will have his hands full tonight with the Jayhawks’ trio of forwards. Kansas head coach Bill Self will look to take Gipson out early by way of foul trouble.

If he’s able to remain in the game, get some early looks and play the type of defense we’ve seen twice now against Texas center Cameron Ridley, expect K-State to hang tough with the Jayhawks through to the end.

Kansas

Freshman center Joel Embiid

It was a very Embiid-esque game for the freshman standout last month; his stat line read 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks in just 19 minutes.

The Cameroon native handled the pressure of K-State’s double team superbly all afternoon despite playing limited minutes due to foul trouble.

If Embiid is able to stay on the court, he will likely take K-State out of its postgame mentality with Gipson. If that proves to be the case, the Wildcats will be forced to hit jump shots to stay in the game, something they weren’t good at in the first meeting.

Freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr.

Wait, Kansas freshman guard Andrew Wiggins isn’t a player to watch? Well, no. Whether he shoots well or not, Wiggins will likely get close to his per game average with his aggressive play at the rim.

Selden, however, is the X-factor for the Jayhawks. In the first showdown, Selden had a quiet 20 points on an efficient shooting day.

In Kansas’ five losses, Seldon is averaging just eight points per game. If the freshman can hit his 13.2 points per game average in Big 12 play, it should open up the scoring for the other Kansas guards.


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