K-State men’s basketball team sticks together in preperation for TCU

Senior forward D.J. Johnson looks for an open teammate during the basketball game between K-State and Oklahoma State in Bramlage Colisium on Feb. 22, 2017. (File Photo by Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team has lost eight out of its last 10 games, are not currently projected as an NCAA Tournament team and are coming off a 30-point loss to last-place Oklahoma.

Things are not going well for the Wildcats.

Despite the struggles, K-State players — especially the two seniors — said they have remained positive throughout and are focused on staying together as a team to achieve their ultimate goal of an NCAA Tournament birth.

“The NCAA Tournament is definitely still a factor for us,” senior forward Wesley Iwundu said. “A lot of good things can happen if we win these last two games and even do something in the conference tournament. We’re just playing for each other, we’re playing for K-State, we wear it on the front of our jerseys. We just want to come out here and protect each other and do what we can to help each other out.”

Senior forward D.J. Johnson said the team has been working hard since this summer.

“I think more than anything we’re playing for each other in the locker room,” Johnson said. “That’s what it’s about. We don’t want to let each other down … we’ve been pushing each other so it’s more about us as a team.”

Head coach Bruce Weber’s seat has gotten hotter and hotter as the losses have piled up. The loss to Oklahoma has many calling for the coach’s job. Weber acknowledged the team’s struggles, but said the Wildcats are ready to get their heads back above water.

“Obviously we’ve had some tough times,” Weber said. “Now how do you keep your head above water, how do you survive? I don’t think there’s any question they want to, it’s just kind of getting some positive things going, making some shots, feeling good about themselves. There’s still a great opportunity out there, and that’s our focus.”

The Wildcats will try and save their season against a team that is facing a similar crisis. TCU enters the game with the same record as the Wildcats (17-12, 6-11) and have struggled down the stretch run of Big 12 play.

The Horned Frogs lost a heartbreaker Saturday against West Virginia. The Horned Frogs kept close with the No. 12 Mountaineers and had a shot to win at the buzzer, but the shot missed its mark, and the Horned Frogs left with their fifth-straight loss.

TCU won the first matchup between these two teams on Feb. 1 in Bramlage Coliseum. K-State controlled much of that game, but the Horned Frogs were able to get some key offensive rebounds late in the game and forced the game into overtime, which they controlled from start to finish.

This will be the final road game for the Wildcats of the regular season. Johnson said the Wildcats should expect a battle.

“I know it’s going to be tough playing there,” Johnson said. “It’s an away game, they’re going to get their calls. So we’ve got to come out and play knowing we’re not playing at home. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

The Wildcats and Horned Frogs will tip off tonight at 8 p.m. in the Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena. The game can be seen on ESPNU.

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