Anticipation builds in K-State basketball over second Sunflower Showdown tonight

Beginning the game, Kansas State Wildcat junior forward Dean Wade leaps high for the ball only to be bested by Georgia Bulldog junior forward Derek Ogbeide. Even though UGA had a headstart on Saturday, K-State viciously returned later in the game to end the game with a Wildcat Victory at Bramlage Coliseum. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Today is a day that the Kansas State men’s basketball team has had marked on its calendar for weeks: the day of the rematch at home between the Wildcats and the KU Jayhawks.

On Jan. 13, K-State lost to its in-state rivals at KU by just one point in Allen Fieldhouse. The Wildcats were close to winning the season’s first Sunflower Showdown, leading the Jayhawks on and off throughout the game, but in the end the score read 73-72 in KU’s favor.

Since that devastating loss, however, K-State has been thriving. The men’s team has not lost a game since, currently riding on a four-game winning streak.

During their winning streak, the Wildcats have beaten the then-No. 4 University of Oklahoma, then-No. 24 TCU, Baylor and the University of Georgia.

Junior guard Barry Brown and junior forward Dean Wade have played phenomenally in recent games. In January, the duo is averaging 21.3 and 18.5 points per game, respectively.

Wade in particular is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Starting with the Jan. 13 game against KU, Wade has scored over 20 points and grabbed at least six rebounds in five straight games.

As a team, the Wildcats are scoring an average of 76.3 points per game and holding opponents to an average of 66.6 points per game. During their current win streak, the Wildcats have shot 51.2 percent on field goals, versus 42.1 percent for their opponents.

Young players have been stepping up for K-State, with the team getting help from freshman guard Cartier Diarra and sophomore forward Makol Mawien.

Since his first start of the season against Oklahoma State, Diarra has scored double-digit points in all but one game versus TCU. He has also stolen the ball seven times during those six games.

Meanwhile, Mawien has finally broken out of his shell and is playing much more aggressively for the Wildcats. His peak was an 18-point, five-rebound, two-block performance against TCU earlier this month. Mawien shot 8-11 from the field in that game.

For as well as K-State has played since the last matchup with KU, the Jayhawks have played equally well.

Since the last Sunflower Showdown, KU has defeated then-No. 7 West Virginia University, Baylor and Texas A&M while also losing to then-No. 12 Oklahoma.

KU boasts the third-best scoring offense in the Big 12 Conference at 83.8 points per game, and the Jayhawks also have the Big 12’s third-best scoring margin at 13.4. The Wildcats are right behind them in scoring margin at 9.7.

The Jayhawks and the Wildcats have the second- and third-highest field goal percentages in the conference at 49.8 percent and 48.7 percent, respectively. KU is lethal from behind the arc, shooting a conference-best 40.7 percent.

Both teams are at the bottom of the Big 12 in rebounding, sitting at ninth and tenth, respectively.

The only statistical category in which one team holds a clear advantage over the other is free throw percentage. The Wildcats are shooting 75.2 percent from the stripe on the season, but the Jayhawks are connecting on just 69.3 percent of their free throws.

Both schools have two of the top-10 scorers in the conference. K-State’s Brown is tied with KU senior Devonte Graham for third with 17.3 points per game.

K-State and KU match up well on paper, and there is no doubt that tonight’s game will be extremely competitive. With the result of the last Sunflower Showdown in mind and the stellar play from both teams as of late, expect this game to come down to the wire.

The Wildcats and the Jayhawks will face off at 8 p.m. at home in Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

I’m Jarrett Whitson, the sports editor this semester. I’m from Blue Rapids, KS, a town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles north of Manhattan. I’m a junior in Public Relations, and a member of FarmHouse Fraternity. I love playing and talking about sports— especially college football