K-State has chance to close Big 12 season with second victory over Iowa State

A win for K-State would surpass last year's Big 12 total

Arne Green
Salina Journal
Kansas State guard Mike McGuirl (00) drives past TCU's Chuck O'Bannon Jr. (5) during a Feb. 20 game at TCU that ended the Wildcats' 13-game losing streak. K-State faces Iowa State at 4 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan.

A  Big 12 Conference decision to reschedule Kansas State's home game against Iowa State could be significant for the Wildcats on several levels.

In a game that was postponed from Jan. 13 over COVID-19 protocols, the Wildcats get the opportunity Saturday to close out their conference season the way it started — with a victory over the Cyclones. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum.

Combined with wins at Texas Tech and against then No. 7-ranked Oklahoma in what would have been its final home game, K-State now has a chance to improve on last year's dismal 3-15 Big 12 record.

The Wildcats go into the game at 7-19 overall, 3-14 in the conference, while Iowa State is 2-20 with a 0-17 league mark. Last year, the Wildcats finished last in the Big 12 with a 3-15 record.

"I'm not sure it's huge progress, but we just want to win because we've improved during the year, and it gives our guys a good feeling," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "The guys have stayed the course, they've continued to work hard, they've continued to believe, they've continued to improve, and now it has finally given them some wins.

"And you want a good feeling going into the offseason, so I think that's the most important thing."

Mike McGuirl, the team's lone senior, just wants to see his young teammates rewarded for their perseverance.

"It's very important to me, because all our work has led up to this point," he said. "All the trials and tribulations, all the learning, the losses we took, everything.

"We've been through a lot this year as a team and we've went through a lot of rough patches, but it's all led up to this point, so now all we can do is try to finish the right way."

Following the victories over TCU and Oklahoma, the Wildcats lost 65-43 at West Virginia in the scheduled regular-season finale. But now they have had a week off, while this will be Iowa State's third makeup game this week.

The Cyclones lost 81-67 to Texas on Tuesday and fell 81-54 at Texas Tech on Thursday. But they also league champion Baylor on the ropes at Baylor on Feb. 23 before losing, 76-72.

"They've been in every game and we've showed the guys the scores," said Weber, whose Wildcats edged Iowa State, 74-65, on December 14 before dropping their next 13 conference games. "We told them if they don't come ready to play, it could be a sad day.

"I hope our guys feel good about themselves, I hope they're ready to go. We've got to defend, and that's going to be really, really important."

The Wildcats should be back at full strength after leading scorer Nijel Pack sat out the West Virginia game with an eye infection. Pack is averaging 12.1 points per game, followed by McGuirl at 11.7.

Rasir Bolton leads Iowa State with a 15.4-point average, followed by Jalen Coleman-Lands at 14.1.

More than anything, Weber said, he is looking for the Wildcats to keep progressing as they head into next week's Big 12 Tournament and a first-round matchup against TCU.

"We've preached this stuff, and now you have results, so now the trust factor is better," he said. "And hopefully (it) will have a positive impact as we move forward."

IOWA STATE AT KANSAS STATE

Tipoff: 4 p.m., Saturday, Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan.

Records: Iowa State 2-20 (0-17 Big 12), Kansas State 7-19 (3-14).

TV/Radio: ESPN+ (live streaming)/Salina: KSAL-AM (1150); Topeka: WIBW-AM (580).

Next up for K-State: vs. TCU, Wednesday, Big 12 Tournament, at T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, Mo.