No. 18 Kansas State puts win streak up against No. 23 Iowa State
(AP) -- No. 23 Iowa State travels to No. 18 Kansas State for the biggest game on the Big 12 Conference's Saturday schedule.
Kansas State (19-5, 9-2 Big 12) leads the conference by 1 1/2 games over Texas Tech and Kansas, with Iowa State (18-6, 7-4) a half game behind that duo.
The Wildcats will be looking to extend a nine-game conference winning streak that has launched them to the top of the conference. Those nine consecutive victories are the longest conference winning streak for the Wildcats since they won 11 consecutive in the Big 8 Conference in 1974.
The Wildcats stood 0-2 in the conference and looked to be on the verge of collapse when they trailed West Virginia 42-21 early in the second half at home on Jan. 9. But they used a furious comeback against the Mountaineers and then forged a last-second 58-57 victory on the road against Iowa State on Jan. 12 to get things rolling.
"I'd be totally shocked, to be honest," K-State head coach Bruce Weber said when asked recently about how he felt about his team's chances at halftime against West Virginia. "I didn't think we'd win that game.
"You've got to give Barry (Brown) and Mike McGuirl a lot of credit for coming to play that second half, fighting it out and it gave us a little boost of energy. Then you get Dean back. Things just kind of fell in place."
The nine-game run has come against all nine opponents in the Big 12. The Wildcats already have avenged their two season-opening conference losses (Texas Tech and Texas) and will next face the two teams they beat to start their streak in Iowa State and West Virginia (on Monday).
Most recently, all five Kansas State starters scored in double figures, and the team shot 54.9 percent (28 of 51) from the field in a 71-64 victory at Texas. Down 39-31 with 1:37 remaining before halftime, the Wildcats combined for a 23-8 run sandwiched around halftime, including a 19-8 run to start the second half, to earn its third consecutive victory over the Longhorns.
Kansas State was picked to finish second in the Big 12 in the preseason, so the Wildcats' lofty status is not a surprise. Iowa State, however, was picked to finish sixth. The fact that the Cyclones are right in the thick of the race is testament to coach Steve Prohm.
Among their victories are a 77-60 drubbing of Kansas at home and a 68-64 win at Texas Tech following the defeat to the Wildcats.
Iowa State had a week off after a surprising 92-83 loss to TCU, just their second home loss this season. The Cyclones still have the Big 12's top offense, leading the conference at 79.0 points per game, field-goal percentage (48.1), free-throw percentage (73.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4).
Iowa State has balance with four players averaging in double figures. They are led by Big 12 player of the year candidate Marial Shayok, who ranks second in the league at 19.3 points per game.
But facing the Wildcats, who have the ability to take teams out of their offensive flow, Prohm knows his team needs to focus on its own defense.
"(It) will be all about us getting better," Prohm said this week. "We've got to continue to work on guarding the ball and being in the gaps, being able to keep people out of the paint."
Kansas State also has four players averaging double-figures in scoring, led by Brown (15.4). Wade has 13.9 per game and Stokes has 10.3. Xavier Sneed has at 10.0 points per game.
Kansas State holds the all-time lead in the series at 140-87, including the last three. Saturday will be just the third time that both teams have been ranked when they faced each other.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 16, 2019