MANHATTAN -- When the K-State men’s basketball team set goals before this season, one of them was an undefeated run through its non-conference schedule, which was spoiled with a tight loss to Maryland. Another goal was to go unbeaten at home in the Big 12, an achievement the Wildcats look to begin when they host Texas on Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNNews.
“We want to be able to go undefeated on our home court in conference because we know how important that is,” senior Wesley Iwundu said. “That’s one of the main goals is to protect home court. We can’t have any slipups, any losses in Bramlage. That’s the main goal.”
“If you want to compete for the upper part of the Big 12 or for a championship, you have to win at home. We get to start at home and hopefully we come with great energy,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber added. “The home-court advantage, to me, is how you play. The crowd helps once they get there, but your defense, your aggressiveness and confidence, and if you want to call it swagger, that’s really important at home.”
K-State (11-1) is off to its best start under Weber and the program’s best start since the 2011-12 team began the season with the same record. The Wildcats have won six games in a row and nine straight at home dating back to the 2015-16 campaign. Their last loss in Bramlage Coliseum was by one point against Texas last season, a memory not forgotten by Iwundu.
“That is still on my mind,” Iwundu said of being swept by Texas last season by four points. “We want to come out on the right foot. We’re very focused for this game, and starting off with a win against a team like Texas would be going in the right direction for us.”
K-State took plenty of steps in the right direction during its non-conference slate.
The Wildcats rank eighth nationally in scoring defense (58.5 ppg) and ninth in field goal percentage defense (37 percent). Their offensive numbers are impressive as well. Entering conference play, K-State has converted 95 3-pointers — 39 percent from beyond the arc and 49 percent from the field, both the highest marks in more than 10 years.
“The big thing now is that we learn to play without the ball. Defenses will be better and you’ll go on the road more,” Weber said, referencing Barry Brown and Iwundu as players he would like to see create more opportunities off the ball. “Now, can you make it hard for them to guard and get things off of movement? We need continue what we’re doing. The assist-turnover ratio is great, the assist-per-field-goal number is pretty good and we’re shooting good shots, but now can you do it against better defense and find ways to score when you get in the shooting struggles?”
Texas (6-6), returning no starters, starts two sophomores and two freshmen.
“Their schedule is pretty tough and they’ve lost a few close games. They’re very talented, but very young,” Weber said. “These guys are trying to figure some things out. They compete with everybody.”
The Longhorns’ height features seven players at 6-foot-6 or taller.
“To match up, we need to keep D.J. (Johnson) and Dean (Wade) out of foul trouble,” Iwundu said. “They’re a pretty young team, but, at the same time, they’re still pretty good. We have to go in prepared like any other team.”
This is the attitude Weber has tried to instill in his team upon returning from a four-plus day break from basketball.
“It’s Coach (Bill) Snyder’s thing, focus on one game at a time. If you worry about the next 20, it’s overwhelming, but just worry about Texas and whoever is next,” Weber said. “That’s got to be the big thing, and coming with great focus, great energy, passion, and getting after it every day."
BIG 12 MEN
Baylor 0-0 12-0
Kansas 0-0 11-1
Kansas State 0-0 11-1
TCU 0-0 11-1
Texas Tech 0-0 11-1
West Virginia 0-0 11-1
Oklahoma State 0-0 10-2
Iowa State 0-0 8-3
Oklahoma 0-0 6-5
Texas 0-0 6-6
West Va. at OSU, ESPN2, 3
Texas Tech at Iowa State, ESPNEWS, 5
Baylor at Oklahoma, ESPN2, 6
Texas at Kansas State, ESPNEWS, 7
Kansas at TCU, ESPN2, 8
Oklahoma at TCU, ESPNU, 8
Kansas State at Kansas, ESPN2, 8
West Va. at Texas Tech, ESPNEWS, 8:15