‘They need a win. We need a win,’: Kansas State and Kansas meet for the 294th time on Tuesday night

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Senior guard Mike McGuirl scans the court for an open play during K-State’s 62-58 loss to Kansas last season at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 29, 2020. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

In a lot of ways, the 294th edition of the Sunflower Showdown on Tuesday night is going to be much different than the last time the two teams met. In that matchup, fans were packed together in Bramlage Coliseum to witness an upset-minded Kansas State team almost pull off a shocker against No. 1 Kansas on national television — and both teams have changed for the worse since then.

Tuesday night’s matchup will feature two teams that are struggling in different ways, as K-State is on the path to finish with their worst record in decades while KU is on the verge of dropping out of the top 25 after losing four out of their last five games. Not to mention the atmosphere and broadcast will be much different than last time, with Allen Fieldhouse being limited to a capacity of just 1,500 fans, and the game being the first of the rivalry to be broadcasted on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

The Wildcats are the obvious underdogs in this matchup though, as their problems this season have far outweighed the problems of the Jayhawks. Despite a career-effort by freshman Nijel Pack, K-State still couldn’t beat a Texas A&M team that might have been their easiest test of the rest of the year.

Oh yeah, and it was K-State’s eighth straight loss, pushing them even closer to hitting the 10 game losing streak that the Wildcats suffered late last season.

To make things worse, the Wildcats will be without starting guard DaJuan Gordon on Tuesday night after he sustained a foot injury in the loss to A&M on Saturday afternoon. Gordon’s return timeline is unknown at the moment.

“Not anything severe, but definitely it’s going to be probably longer than — the recovery,” head coach Bruce Weber said about Gordon. “It’s a different injury than just a sprain.”

Gordon’s injury is just one of the many times that a K-State player has had to miss an extended amount of playing time. Overall this season seven Wildcats have combined to miss 50 games due to either injury or COVID-19 protocols.

With Gordon out, Weber said that emerging freshman star Selton Miguel will start in his place, while also needing more consistency from Antonio Gordon.

While Kansas hasn’t had to deal with the injury or COVID-19 bug like K-State, they have had to deal with issues of their own. The Jayhawks main issues on both sides of the court? Three-point shooting.

This was evident in the Jayhawks 80-61 clobbering at the hands of Tennessee on Saturday night. In that game, Kansas was held to just 25 percent (6-of-24) from behind the arc and allowed Tennessee to shoot 62 percent (8-of-13) in that same category

“It’s pretty obvious. They’ve (Kansas) had their struggles also,” Weber said. “Not as severe as ours, but they’ve lost four of five. For them, that’s not a normal thing. They’ve had some shooting woes, and that’s what worries me. If they don’t shoot it well, obviously that’s to our benefit.”

In Kansas head coach Bill Self’s media availability on Monday, the veteran coach said the month of February will have to be the Jayhawks best month of basketball going forward.

“The next nine games are vital as far as setting the tone for what type of season we are going to have and the momentum we’d have going into the postseason,” Self said.

This year, the Jayhawks are still led by a solid group of players like the junior duo of guard Ochai Agbaji (14.1 points per game) and forward David McCormack (12 points per game, 18 total blocks), as well as redshirt freshman Jalen Wilson (12.2 points per game, 120 total rebounds).

Of course, the last matchup between the two teams in Allen Fieldhouse ended in a postgame scuffle that led to four suspensions, including a 12-game suspension for former Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa after he attempted to use a chair during the fight. Weber made it a point in his press conference on Monday that the Wildcats will have to keep their poise on Tuesday night.

“It was not the right way to have any game finish, whether it’s against them or anyone else,” Weber said. “We gotta make sure we keep our poise and play the right way and act the right way.”

It goes without saying that a win for either side will be important going down the stretch of this season. With it being a rivalry game, anything is on the table.

“They need a win. We need a win,” Weber said. “Both teams will come in a special rivalry, come and get after it.”

The rivalry will tip-off at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse and can be seen live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!