9-0 Wildcats prepare for showdown with undefeated Connecticut

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Freshman forward Eternati Willock shoots the ball during the K-State game against Auburn in Bramlage Coliseum on Dec. 1, 2016. (File Photo by Maddie Domnick| The Collegian)

After Kansas State’s win over the University of Texas-Arlington Wednesday night, head coach Jeff Mittie put a little perspective on the upcoming game against Connecticut, the No. 1 team in the nation.

“That atmosphere is going to be a special atmosphere,” Mittie said. “Not just for here, guys; it’s going to be a special atmosphere for across the country.”

While K-State was busy trying to overcome turnovers against UT-Arlington, UConn was busy earning the team’s 83rd straight win, beating the No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 72-61. It was UConn’s second win over the No. 2 team in the country after beating No. 2 Baylor in November. The Huskies won that game 72-61 also.

Still, if ever there was a K-State team capable of pulling off the upset, it might be this one. Fresh off the program’s 900th win, fresh off the head coach’s 501st win and 9-0 for the first time since 2008 when the Wildcats made it all the way to 14-0.

At times, this Wildcats’ team looks as dangerous to the unprepared ranked-team entering Manhattan as a hurricane looks to a ship captain who decides to sail straight into it. That’s how the Wildcats played in their win over No. 23 Auburn Dec. 1.

“Against Auburn you saw us play with controlled-aggression, and you saw us play with a confidence (in our play),” Mittie said. “It didn’t mean we didn’t make mistakes. It didn’t mean we didn’t make poor decisions, but we were committed to that decision and most of the time that works out a lot better.”

At other times, this Wildcats’ team looks about as dangerous as a clear, blue sky. Such was the way it played at times against UT-Arlington Wednesday night.

But in overcoming 26 turnovers, a full 10 more than they gave up to Auburn, the Wildcats showed a level of grit that would be unwise for a visiting coach to ignore in his preparations for a game against it.

These Wildcats didn’t quit Wednesday night, even when they made a game against a comparatively weak opponent harder for themselves.

The Wildcats will need every bit of that grit when they take the court in a sold-out Bramlage Coliseum Sunday at 1 p.m. against UConn.

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Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.