No. 7 Kansas looks to extend hold on rival Kansas State
With each program coming off a dramatic road win, No. 7 Kansas and Kansas State will square off in a Saturday matinee at Manhattan, Kan.
The Wildcats will be looking to extend their winning streak to three games, all over ranked opponents.
Kansas State (10-7, 2-4 Big 12) went into action a week ago riding a four-game losing streak. The Wildcats subsequently defeated then-No. 19 Texas Tech, which had knocked off top-10 opponents Kansas and Baylor in back-to-back games, then went on the road and stopped No. 23 Texas 66-65 on Tuesday.
"Just thrilled for our guys," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said after the Texas game. "We just kept grinding. We fought through a bunch of stuff. Obviously, Mark (Smith) helped us stay in it in the first half. Nijel (Pack) made a couple big shots.
"We were pretty good defensively, especially early in the second half. It's a great team win. Mark Smith, special effort -- 22 points, big shots, big rebounds, but Mike McGuirl's poise and pace. I just keep emphasizing to him, make simple basketball plays. You do that and you're a good player, and it was great for him. I couldn't be more thrilled for him."
Kansas State has been guard-centric this season. Pack leads the Wildcats with 15.5 points per game. Fellow point guard Markquis Nowell is second at 12 ppg, followed by Smith at 11.3. Smith, a wing player, leads the Wildcats and the Big 12 with 8.3 rebounds per game. They all will need to step up against the Jayhawks.
Kansas (15-2, 4-1) went to Norman, Okla., on Tuesday and recorded a 67-64, come-from-behind win over Oklahoma. With possession and the game tied, Christian Braun received a pass from Ochai Agbaji, and he connected on a contested 3-pointer to give the Jayhawks a 65-62 lead with 10.9 seconds remaining.
"Well, it won that game, so I think it's pretty big," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who thought Braun shot the ball too early. "I mean, a tie game and shoot it five seconds too early, it's got to go in. He jumped up and made it.
"It's good to see C.B. shoot the ball well and make a couple threes. He hadn't shot very many. Of course, the free throws were big as well."
Agbaji leads the Jayhawks with an average of 19.9 points per game, the best mark in the Big 12. Braun is second on the team and fifth in the league at 15.6 ppg.
The rivalry has been pretty one-sided for quite a while. Kansas has won five straight dating back to Kansas State's 74-67 win in Manhattan in February 2019. The Jayhawks have won 13 of the past 14 games between the teams.
Kansas won 24 straight matchups with Kansas State in Manhattan between 1984 and 2007. That overlapped a 31-game winning streak in all locations that was stopped by the Wildcats' 59-55 win in Lawrence in 2006.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 21, 2022