Sunflower State showdown pits Jayhawks against Wildcats

Feb 23, 2015 - 3:30 PM Manhattan, KS ( - Bitter rivals square off in Big 12 Conference action on Monday night, as the Kansas Jayhawks pay a visit to the Kansas State Wildcats.

At 22-5 overall and 11-3 in conference, Kansas is currently in first place in the Big 12, but not by much as both Iowa State (10-4) and Oklahoma (10-5) are knocking on the door. The Jayhawks, who will visit the Sooners in the regular- season finale on March 7, have won three of their last four games, with the most recent being an 81-72 decision at home versus TCU on Saturday. However, KU has lost two of its last three on the road, giving it a 5-4 mark in true road tests this season.

Kansas State has enjoyed far less success than its counterpart, logging a 13-15 record in 2014-15, which includes a 6-9 league ledger. The Wildcats are in eighth place in the Big 12, and they are seeking only their second win in the last nine games. K-State suffered a 69-42 defeat at Baylor on Saturday, marking the fifth time this season Bruce Weber's club has been held below 50 points.

These two teams met in Lawrence back on Jan. 31, with Kansas prevailing in a 68-57 final. As a result, the Jayhawks' lead in the all-time series increased to 188-92.

KU, which has won seven of the last eight, 14 of the last 16 and 49 of the last 53 meetings with the Wildcats, got double-digit scoring efforts from four players in last month's triumph, including Perry Ellis who logged a double- double consisting of 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Wildcats were led by a pair of 19-point performances from Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson.

Ellis was once again high man for the Jayhawks in Saturday's win over TCU, as he hit for 23 points in going a near-perfect 9-of-10 from the field. He also spearheaded the team's rebounding effort by grabbing seven boards, but Kansas came out on the short end overall with 29 boards to TCU's 33. The Jayhawks, who turned the ball over 14 times, shot an impressive 58.3 percent from the floor, despite making only four 3-pointers. Devonte' Graham came off the bench to knock down all seven of his field goal attempts en route to 20 points, and Frank Mason III rounded out the unit's double-digit scorers by netting 14 points to go with five assists.

Despite being the Big 12's best 3-point shooting squad (.409), Kansas is near the middle of the pack with regard to scoring offense (72.1 ppg). The team's defensive effort results in an average yield of 64.4 ppg, which ranks it eighth in the 10-team conference. The Jayhawks don't lead the league in another statistical category, and they feature only two double-digit scorers in Ellis (13.7 ppg) and Mason III (12.4 ppg). Ellis is also first on the glass with 6.9 rpg, while Mason III serves as the team's primary playmaker with 4.4 apg. A total of five others net between 5.5 and 9.7 ppg to help KU put forth a balanced offensive attack.

As alluded to earlier, Kansas State has had its troubles filling the basket this season. Averaging a mere 62.9 ppg to rank ninth in the Big 12, the Wildcats shot just 38.3 percent from the field, and missed all but one of their 16 3-point tries in the recent loss to Baylor. Gipson led the way with 11 points thanks to his 5-of-8 shooting effort, but a guy like Foster really struggled in tallying just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, which included an 0-of-5 showing beyond the arc. Conversely, the Bears made good on nearly half of their total shots, including 8-of-16 from distance.

Even with a scoring average that falls well short of the better teams in the Big 12, K-State has talent on the roster, notably Foster (13.4 ppg), Nino Williams (11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Gipson (11.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg). The Wildcats allow an average of 63.6 ppg to the opposition, and while they own a +1.9 rebounding margin on the season, they actually rank last in the league in rebounds per game (31.5). With a glaring lack of an inside presence, it's not surprising to see K-State bring up the rear in blocked shots (2.25 per game) as well.

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