K-State faces must-win game Saturday in Austin

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Senior forward Thomas Gipson is double-teamed by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (right) and forward Jordan Barnett (33) as he tries to pass around the arc in the first half of the Wildcats' 57-61 shortcoming at the hands of the No. 25 Longhorns on Feb. 7, 2015 in Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

K-State men’s basketball has teetered on the line of success several times this season. Saturday in Austin, Texas, the Wildcats will chose their fate for the final time.

A win against Texas (18-12, 7-10) would push K-State’s postseason hopes further, whether those be for the NCAA Tournament or NIT. A loss would set the Wildcats (15-15, 8-9) further back, and would likely see them on the outside looking in for good.

“All season we would talk about it off and on with the team, and it seems like every time we put ourselves in position to be a factor, we slip up,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said in the weekly Big 12 teleconference on Monday. “With this group, I’m not sure — they need to focus on the immediate and that’s playing Texas on Saturday and focusing on that and not looking too far down the road.”

The Longhorns have had their own strife this season, going from the heights of the top 10 to now scrapping just to make it to the NCAA Tournament field of 64.

Head coach Rick Barnes’s squad seemed all but dead as they took a four-game losing streak into Waco, Texas Monday night. However, his talented yet underachieving Texas group found a way to knock off one of the hottest teams in the Big 12, No. 14 Baylor, in overtime.

Barnes saw something in that game against the Bears that he thought pointed towards further consistent play as they head down the stretch.

“I think it gives us another breath,” Barnes said to reporters after the Baylor win. “If we don’t change, you go to Kansas and fight there, then we come back home and a couple of guys were too nonchalant. That just can’t be. The second half I do think there were a lot of things that if we get them all the time, it would be all the difference in the world. In the last two games, from a coaching standpoint, we feel like we really have been able to get into some kind of rotation. The last two games we have felt like we are starting to settle into a rotation.”

While K-State dropped the previous matchup to Texas at home, it’s been the road that has given the Wildcats such a struggle.

K-State is 1-9 in true road games this season, with the only win coming in the shocker against Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

“I’ve talked all year about maturity and focus,” Weber said. “You have to be very mature and focused to win on the road. Then you have to find ways to win close games on the road. We seem to be a group that uses the emotion of the home court … on the road you have got to bring your own emotion.”

K-State and Texas will both enjoy full-strength squads on Saturday, something that wasn’t the case in the first meeting when the Longhorns were without junior point guard Javan Felix and senior forward Jonathan Holmes due to injury injuries in the first matchup, and K-State without sophomore guard Marcus Foster and freshman Malek Harris due to suspension.

The Wildcats and Longhorns will tipoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the Frank Erwin Center.

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