A losing streak can do one of two things — it can either tear a team apart or bring it together.
For K-State (14-7, 3-4 Big 12 Conference), it would appear the four-game losing streak to start conference play has unified the Wildcats. K-State is coming off its biggest win of the season — an overtime victory at Texas on Saturday — and will look to avoid a letdown tonight against a struggling Iowa State team (12-9, 1-5).
Coach Frank Martin said the ability of his team to withstand the late run by Texas and still manage to win was a testament to his team’s toughness.
“We’ve got a group of guys that are special,” Martin said. “We believe in them as coaches. They fight their rear ends off for us. They are young kids. We went through a little tough stretch where we didn’t play well. Well, the Big 12 does that to you — it happens.
“These kids — everything they’ve done since we’ve been here — they take it on and I think that’s just seeing us continue to do something that reflects the kinds of kids we’ve got on this team,” he said.
Sophomore guard Jacob Pullen said he knew Texas would make a run, and the mental toughness of his teammates enabled them to respond to the 30-13 Longhorn run during the last eight minutes of the game.
“We’re all tough kids,” Pullen said. “We’ve all had tough situations in our life and we’re all tough enough now that we know even if a team does fight back, to take that blow and give out another one and just try to contain the game.”
Denis Clemente, who was named the Big 12 player of the week Monday, said the Wildcats must avoid a repeat of last season when they lost at Missouri after beating a KU team that was No. 2 in the nation, but added he doesn’t think it will be a problem.
“We feel a lot of confidence now,” said Clemente, whose 44 points against the Longhorns tied Michael Beasley’s Big 12 record for most points in a game. “We feel like we can beat anybody in the Big 12 so we gotta keep winning.”
The Cyclones are back on their heels after a four-game losing streak but are led by one of the conference’s best players, Craig Brackins.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore enters tonight’s game as the second-leading scorer in the conference with 19.5 points per game, behind only Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin.
Martin said that Brackins presents a difficult matchup for his team.
“He’s good,” he said. “He can score in transition. He can score with his back to the basket. He can shoot the three and can score off the dribble. He’s gonna present a matchup problem for us that we have to be prepared to deal with and make sure that defensively we’re as sharp as we’ve been.”
Pullen said the Wildcats were already preparing for Iowa State after the victory at Texas and didn’t get the typical day off after a Saturday game due to the quick turnaround.
“After the win at Texas, we have to mellow down, but we also have to keep the same confidence and protect our home court,” Pullen said.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum.