Opportunity awaits Wildcats

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Legendary Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame head coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

Tonight the K-State men’s basketball team will need strong contributions from each individual in order to obtain the desired results as they get set to take on in-state rival Kansas for the second time this season.

K-State is coming off a tough loss in Austin, Texas, against a solid Texas Longhorns bunch, but that doesn’t mean the Wildcats can’t make a quick turnaround, learn from their mistakes and take advantage of a great opportunity at home in the Octagon of Doom.

The spotlight will be on and all eyes will be watching as K-State will look to knock off Kansas in Manhattan for the second straight year. Jacob Pullen isn’t coming out of the locker room on Big Monday to bring on the Wildcats and put forth a 38-point effort like last season, but there are similarities between this game and the one last year that ended in the Wildcats overwhelming the top-ranked Jayhawks 84-68.

Last season, the game in Manhattan was played on a Big Monday, as is this game.

Last season, the Wildcats were coming off a heartbreaking road loss against a strong Big 12 Conference opponent. Saturday, the Wildcats dropped a close contest against a determined Texas team. 

Last season, the Jayhawks were coming off a 23-point win against an inferior Big 12 opponent at home. Saturday, the Jayhawks took down Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse in a game that was never really close, as the Jayhawks built up a 29-point lead before allowing the Cowboys to close the gap in the second half. However, Kansas still managed a convincing 81-66 victory. 

Last season, the Jayhawks coasted to a 90-66 win in the first meeting with the Wildcats in Lawrence, and this year Kansas walked through the Wildcats on their way to a 67-49 victory in the Phog. The similarities are there and the conditions are right for yet another thriller in Bramlage Coliseum tonight.

K-State junior guard Rodney McGruder has to be viewed as the most likely candidate to have a Pullen-like performance against the Jayhawks. He leads the Wildcats in scoring at 14.6 points per game, but has had several huge showings in important games this season as well. These include a 28-point performance against Long Beach State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, a 30-point performance in a close home loss against a Baylor Bears team that was undefeated at the time, and a career-high 33-point outing less than a month ago against the Texas Longhorns.

McGruder’s abilities to score the basketball are no secret to anyone who follows the Big 12 and most certainly won’t be overlooked by the Jayhawks. The Wildcats will need other players to step up and add points if the Jayhawks are smothering McGruder.

Sophomore guard Will Spradling and senior forward Jamar Samuels rank second and third on the team in scoring at 10.4 and 9.6 points per game, respectively. These two players must add much-needed offense if the Wildcats hope to get a win tonight. Spradling and Samuels will also most likely be responsible for stopping the Jayhawks’ one-two punch combination of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Most experts agree that Robinson is the leading candidate for NCAA Player of the Year as he averages better than 18 points per game and brings down just over 12 rebounds per game. Taylor is second in scoring for the Jayhawks and averages 16.8 points per game and is fourth in the Big 12 with 5.1 assists per game.

If K-State can have a balanced scoring attack and limit the Jayhawks’ opportunities on offense, then the Wildcats have a chance to win. If the Jayhawks are able to get steals, score on fast-breaks and play a quick paced, up-tempo style of game, then chances are the results will be similar to the first time the two teams met this season.

Last week freshman Duke guard Austin Rivers said that he would make an impact in the teams’ game against in-state rival North Carolina. Rivers certainly did that as he scored 29 points including the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to stun the Tar Heels. K-State will need a performance from someone in order for the Wildcats to take down the Jayhawks tonight. So that begs the question, who will that person be? Who will step up and carry this Wildcat team to victory? Who will have an impact on this rivalry?t

Jared Brown is a senior in marketing. Please send all comments to sports@kstatecollegian.com.

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