Wildcats to host No. 15 Texas after midweek break

(Photo by Parker Robb | Collegian) Sophomore forward D.J. Johnson (50) and senior forward Shane Southwell (1) attempt to block a shot from ISU guard DeAndre Kane during the second half of K-State's 81-75 loss to the Cyclones January 25, 2014, in Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. Johnson came away with the defensive rebound.

The midweek bye could not have come at a better time for the K-State Wildcats who will square off with the No. 15 Texas Longhorns Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum. K-State (15-7, 5-4 Big 12) enters the game as losers of three of their last four games.

“A lot of guys have been resting,” freshman guard Marcus Foster said. “We were easy on our legs Monday and Tuesday. It was definitely a relief, our bodies are all beaten up.”

The Wildcats, who got off to a quick start in Big 12 competition, are in need of a big win to get them back on track. After a 4-1 start in conference play, which had the Wildcats sitting in second place, K-State have dropped four of their last five road games. Saturday’s matchup with the Longhorns not only offers a chance for the Wildcats to get back on track, but the chance to grab a win over the team in second place in the Big 12.

“No matter what, you want to protect home court and that’s what we’ve talked about,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We want to have success here, there is no doubt.”

In front of a purple crowd this season, the Wildcats have played at a new level. K-State is currently undefeated at 3-0 against ranked teams in front of a K-State crowd. Weber’s squad is also undefeated in conference play when playing at Bramlage Coliseum.

There has not been a shortage of scoring on the road for the Wildcats. It has all boiled down to the defensive end for K-State on the road. At home, the Wildcats are holding Big 12 opponents to just over 62 points per game. Away from Manhattan, K-State has surrendered an average of just over 72 points per game. The 10 point difference may not seem like an astronomical difference, but three of the Wildcats four road losses have come by 10 points or less.

“We use our crowd and our energy to help us on defense and our offense so we usually play pretty good in front of them,” junior forward Thomas Gipson said.

There was no shortage of excitement the last time these two teams squared off. In the first matchup, it was the Longhorns upsetting the Wildcats in Austin, Texas when junior forward Jonathan Holmes drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Longhorns the win. Holmes was able to sneak past Gipson on the final to get the shot that he wanted, Gipson has not forgotten that and has put a lot of the responsibility on his shoulders for the loss.

“To be honest, I fell asleep and it was pretty much my fault,” Gipson said. “Coach asked me what happened and I just had to tell him ‘I fell asleep’ and I took the blame for that loss.”

The Longhorns enter the game as one of the hottest, if not the hottest team, in the Big 12. After starting off their Big 12 schedule with two straight losses, Texas has not faltered. They are a perfect 7-0 since Jan. 8, and are coming off of a big win over a top 10 team in Kansas.

The X-Factor for the Longhorns has been sophomore forward Cameron Ridley. The 6-foot-9-inch, 285 pound big man has been a brute in the paint for Texas. In the first matchup, Ridley had a career Big 12 high 18 points.

“They are a totally different team,” senior forward Shane Southwell said. “Against us, it was the start of them really getting confident. They were doing well before us, but it seemed like after that game, they really became confident.”

The Wildcats will face another top 15 team on Monday when they take on No. 8 Kansas. However, K-State cannot get caught looking ahead to their in-state foe. According to Weber, the Wildcats have spent a lot of this week simply getting his squad back to playing their brand of basketball.

“We prepared for ourself,” Weber said. “We did a little bit of Texas today but our days of practice were about us and getting better.”

Tipoff is set for 12:30.