PREVIEW: Men’s basketball team travels to Ames to open Big 12 play

Sophomore guard DaJuan Gordon scans the court for an open play during the Wildcat's 79-63 victory over Iowa State in the 2019-2020 regular-season finale at Bramlage Coliseum on March 7, 2020. (File Photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

The men’s basketball team (2-4) travels to Ames, Iowa, to open Big 12 Conference play against Iowa State (1-2) on Tuesday night. The matchup is the earliest conference opener in school history and the first conference game played in the month of December for Kansas State since 2017.

The Wildcats finished a six-game homestand with a small confidence boost after defeating Milwaukee 76-75 last Friday. The contest saw multiple newcomers step up and hit career highs, including an 18 point, seven-rebound night from freshman forward Davion Bradford.

Bradford is expected to take over as the starting forward with redshirt sophomore forward Kaosi Ezeagu missing significant time for an injury and the future of sophomore forward Montavious Murphy up in the air after missing the last three games with an injury.

K-State started four guards in its last matchup and is likely to have the same lineup on Tuesday. Freshman forward Selton Miguel found success in his first start with the Wildcats on Friday, scoring a career-high 17 points and shooting 50 percent from the floor.

As a team, the Wildcats average 65.3 points per game and shoot 44.9 percent from the floor. The shooting got a huge boost on Friday when K-State shot 54.7 percent from the floor.

Protecting the basketball is one of the biggest issues for the Wildcats through their first six games of the season, turning over the ball 87 times. The defensive side of the ball has also been a struggle for the Wildcats with opponents averaging 73 points per game.

Iowa State lost 105-77 to No. 3 Iowa and senior center Luka Garza on Friday night. The contest with K-State is the Cyclone’s third game this season because of COVID-19 issues.

Senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands leads the Cyclones into the contest, averaging a team-high of 15.3 points per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the floor. As a team, Iowa State averages 75 points per game and shoots 46.8 percent from the floor.

Five players, including four of the projected starters, average nine or more points per game. The Cyclones won six of the last ten meetings with the Wildcats, but former forward Xavier Sneed scored a career-high 31 points to lead the Wildcats to a 76-63 win in the 2019 regular-season finale, snapping a three-game Cyclone winning-streak.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on Tuesday on ESPNU.