Tonight in United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas, the K-State men’s basketball team will take the court to once again try to capture a road win. It’s been the same song and dance for the Wildcats away from Bramlage Coliseum this season. The Wildcats (18-9, 8-6 Big 12) have one road win in conference play this season. That lone win was against a team without a conference win to their name this season, TCU.
Texas Tech enters the game as one of the surprise teams of the Big 12 season. New head coach Tubby Smith has his team doing something that the Red Raiders haven’t done in some time, and that’s compete. The Red Raiders (13-14, 5-9 Big 12) have won more Big 12 games this year than they have in the previous two seasons combined. Last week, the Red Raiders took the Kansas Jayhawks, who currently sit atop the Big 12, all the way to the wire. The Jayhawks left Lubbock with a one-point win. Texas Tech only managed to win three conference games last season. This year, Smith is winning games with a very similar team.
A big reason for the Red Raider’s improvements have been because of the improvement and consistency of their senior forward Jaye Crockett. The big man leads his team in both points and rebound this year, solidifying a very experienced front court.
For K-State, they are coming off of a 86-73 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday that pushed their road-losing streak to six games. The Wildcats now find themselves running out of opportunities to add road wins to their tournament resume.
“This league is tough,” said head coach Bruce Weber, following the Oklahoma game. “It’s hard to win at home, it’s hard to win on the road.”
The basketball gods have just not been kind to the Wildcats on the road this season. Whether it has been blowouts, buzzer beaters or in double-overtime, the Wildcats have lost in many ways while away from Bramlage this season. A big reason for that has been the lack of energy that the Wildcats seem to have when they aren’t playing in front of their purple clad fans.
“I think we feed off our crowd’s energy when we’re at home,” junior guard Thomas Gipson said. “When we’re away, we don’t have life – like we’re dead out there. That’s what it was in the first half.”
The Wildcats youth has showed on the road this season. One consistent factor lately for the Wildcats has been the strong play of freshman guard Marcus Foster. The freshman has averaged just over 20 points per game in his last three road games. But, even for a player who is clearly finding ways to score no matter where he has played, he’ll admit that it just makes it that much tougher on the road.
“When we’re playing at home, the energy’s always there for us; we can feed off the crowd,” Foster said. “From personal experience, when I play at home, I’m so comfortable. I know where I like to shoot and it’s just so easy to play at home. It’s like that for every player.”
In the first matchup between the two teams this season, the Wildcats jumped out to a 12-point halftime lead before a second half lull. It was senior guard Will Spradling who stepped up and sealed the deal for the Wildcats at home against the Red Raiders. Spradling finished with a season-high 17 points against Texas Tech back at the end of January.
The Wildcats will only have one road game left on the schedule before heading to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament after tonight’s matchup. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.