Men’s basketball looks to avoid Allen Fieldhouse woes

K-State freshman guard Marcus Foster takes a shot on Jan. 11 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. (Emily DeShazer | The Collegian)

After ending a two-game home stand with a sloppy loss against West Virginia on Tuesday, the K-State men’s basketball team is looking to rebound in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball, traveling to historic Allen Fieldhouse to take on No. 9 Kansas Saturday.

The Wildcats (12-9, 5-3) are hoping steal a resounding victory against a Jayhawk (17-3, 6-1) squad that historically doesn’t lose at home. Under head coach Bill Self, who is in his 12th season in Lawrence is 184-9 at home.

In fact, Self has more Big 12 Championships (10) than he has home losses.

Another historical perspective: the last time K-State captured a victory at Allen Fieldhouse was in 2006, which means a majority of the Wildcats’ roster — including sophomore guard Marcus Foster — would have been on the verge of graduation … from elementary school.

“Playing in Allen Fieldhouse is something like you’ve never been a part of before,” Foster said Tuesday. “I thought it was all jokes, and I didn’t think it was really all the hype that it was, but when you get in there and the game is going, it’s loud as ever and it’s every possession. It’s something you have to prepare for.”

Even with the preparation heading into the game last season, K-State still looked overmatched. Kansas went on an early run, eventually winning by 26 points.

Foster said that experience at the venue is a major key for the Wildcats this time around.

“Last year, we prepared for it and we really weren’t prepared as we should have been because we were a young team,” he said. “This year, almost every guy that plays major minutes played in that game last year and played in it previous years, so I think they’ll be ready to play.”

One of the biggest keys to success in Allen Fieldhouse is composure. Teams that come out, play calm and take the air out of the rowdy crowd manage to play better against Kansas.

“You just have to stay calm, there’s a lot of things that’s going to happen,” Foster said. “West Virginia prepared us for KU, because you’re going to make mistakes and you’re not going to be able to hear coach (Bruce Weber). Things are going to go wrong just because it’s Allen Fieldhouse — it’s legendary for that — so it’s all about staying poised and making the next play.”

The good news for K-State is that most of the players on the roster already have a victory against the Jayhawks, being the exciting overtime win in Bramlage Coliseum a year ago.

“We have to come out and punch them in the mouth first, that’s going to dictate how the game is going to go,” Foster said. “It’s all about how we are going to start the game.”

However, K-State’s biggest issue may be how the team plays down the stretch, including free throws. The Wildcats rank in the bottom half of Division I in free-throw percentage, hitting their freebies 67.9 percent of the time.

K-State will also likely be without senior forward Nino Williams, who Weber said is listed as “doubtful” with a sprained knee.

The season’s first installment of the Sunflower Showdown between the two in-state rivals tips off from Allen Fieldhouse at 1 p.m. Saturday.