The Sports Network
By Andrew Gaddess, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Frank Erwin Center (16,734) -- Austin, Texas. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Kansas State 15-2, Texas 16-1. Away Record: Kansas State 4-5, Texas 6-3. Neutral Record: Kansas State 1-2, Texas 2-1. Conference Record: Kansas State 8-6, Texas 12-2. Series Record: Kansas State leads, 11-9.
GAME NOTES: The league-leading Texas Longhorns will look for a bounce back win tonight as they welcome the Kansas State Wildcats to the Frank Erwin Center for a Big 12 matchup.
Kansas State will look to build cache for an at-large NCAA Tournament selection, as it takes the court tonight, and then Saturday, against Iowa State, to close out the regular season. At 8-6 in league play, the Wildcats are currently knotted with Missouri for fourth place in the Big 12 standings. They are in the midst of a four-game win streak.
Texas is currently tied atop the conference with Kansas at 12-2 and has already secured a bye in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament. The Longhorns will look to recover from a disappointing 91-89 loss to Colorado on Saturday. They sport a perfect 7-0 home mark in league play, posting a plus-17.1 average margin of victory in said games.
With respect to the all-time series, tonight's matchup marks the 21st meeting between Kansas State and Texas. The Wildcats currently hold an 11-9 lead over the Longhorns.
Since downing top-ranked Kansas, 83-68, on Feb. 14th, Kansas State has continued with wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska and, most recently, 20th-ranked Missouri this past Saturday. Jacob Pullen led the Wildcats to the 80-70 win, as he poured in 24 points, becoming just the second K-State player in history to breach the 2,000 point plateau. Curtis Kelly was strong in support, adding 15 points and six boards. The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent from the field on the night, while holding Missouri to 40.7 percent shooting, and hit 12-of-13 (92.3 percent) free throws over the final 20 minutes of action. With Pullen on the pine late, mired in foul trouble, the Wildcats' underclassmen helped post a 9-0 run to put the game away. K-State is now 15-0 when scoring 70 or more points in a contest. The Wildcats play solid defense, to the tune of 65.5 ppg allowed and a plus-7.4 rebounding margin. The offense is driven by the sharpshooting Pullen, who paces the team in scoring (19.7 ppg) and assists (95) and is tied with Rodney McGruder for most three-pointers made (61). McGruder ranks second on the team in scoring (11.2 ppg). He not only has a silky touch from the perimeter, but also a willingness to mix it up inside, pulling down a team-high 6.2 rpg. On the whole, the Wildcats average 73.2 ppg.
A complete defensive collapse led to Texas' Saturday loss to Colorado. After registering a season-best 48 first half points, the Longhorns allowed season- highs in points (91), second-half-points (58), field goal percentage (53.3) and assists (21) to suffer the loss. It also marked just the second time in 14 league games and fifth time this season that the Longhorns were outrebounded, as Colorado posted a 43-39 advantage on the glass. The loss came despite a strong offensive effort, which saw Jordan Hamilton post 21 points to register his 13th 20-point game of the year. J'Covan Brown scored 21 points as well, reaching double figures for the 12th time this season, while Gary Johnson (17 points), Tristan Thompson (16 points) and Cory Joseph (12 point) also contributed in the high-scoring affair. Typically though, the Longhorns play exponentially better defense, as they allow just 60.7 ppg and post a plus-6.4 rebounding margin. The offense, as evident in the Colorado game, is no slouch itself, averaging 75.9 ppg, as Hamilton leads four players in double figures at 18.8 ppg.
Subscribe to the law of increasing returns tonight, as getting back home should equal a return to form for the Longhorns.