Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - The jockeying for favorable placement in the Big 12 Conference continues on Saturday, as ranked rivals Kansas State and Iowa State do battle at Hilton Coliseum.
Kansas State comes in sporting a 14-5 overall record, which includes a 4-2 league ledger. The Wildcats, who are presently the 22nd-ranked team in the country, dropped a 67-64 decision at Texas on Tuesday, putting an end to their recent two-game win streak and saddling the team with its second setback in the last four outings. K-State is just 1-2 in true road games this season.
Iowa State, currently ranked 16th in the nation, has been one of the real surprises through the first two months of the season, beginning a stellar 14-0. Conference-opening wins over Texas Tech and Baylor had the team and its fans believing it could challenge for the Big 12 title, but the Cyclones have lost each of their last three games, the most recent of which being an 86-76 setback at Texas last Saturday. ISU 8-1 at home this season, so there is reason for optimism heading into the weekend.
Kansas State leads the all-time series with Iowa State, 135-80, but the Cyclones have won three of the last four meetings. The two teams will get together in Manhattan on March 1 to close out the regular-season series.
Thomas Gipson shot 10-of-18 from the floor to finish with a career-high 24 points, but that effort went to waste as Kansas State dropped a three-point decision at Texas earlier this week. Shane Southwell (13 points) joined Gipson in double figures, but the Wildcats made good on just 42.6 percent of their field goal attempts, including only 4-of-16 tries from 3-point range. To make matters worse, KSU went a disappointing 8-of-14 at the free-throw line.
Despite boasting three double-digit scorers, led by Marcus Foster and his 13.7 ppg, Kansas State is a lackluster offensive team at best, averaging 67.8 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .427 overall and .315 from 3-point range -- all of which rank the squad ninth in the 10-team conference. Where the team really earns its mettle is at the defensive end, as foes are permitted a league-low 60.3 ppg. The 'Cats defend the open shot to maximum effectiveness, holding the enemy to 39.9 percent accuracy from the field (No. 2 in the Big 12), which includes a paltry 26.7 percent effort from beyond the arc (No. 1).
Georges Niang scored 18 points and dished out six assists, Melvin Ejim logged a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and DeAndre Kane finished with 15 points, six boards and four helpers, but all those efforts went for naught as Iowa State fell at Texas last weekend. The Cyclones shot just 39.3 percent from the field, and while they hit 11 treys, then needed 32 chances to do so. Sloppy play hurt the club, as 18 turnovers (seven credited to Kane) led to 15 points for the Longhorns, who only committed eight giveaways while claiming a 24-17 edge in points from the foul line.
Iowa State is the highest scoring team in the Big 12, putting up 85.1 ppg in hitting 47.7 percent of its total shots, which includes a 34.3 percent showing from 3-point land. The Cyclones also pace the conference in assists (18.24 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.78), while riding the efforts of four double-digit scorers. Ejim leads the way with 17.7 ppg, and he is one of three guys grabbing at least 7.1 rpg. Kane adds 16.7 ppg while also serving as the club's primary playmaker with 5.8 apg. Dustin Hogue is close to averaging a double-double as he nets 12.2 ppg while coming up with 9.1 rpg.