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Wildcats welcome No. 8 KU

By ARNE GREEN

Special to The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN - Kansas State University bills Bramlage Coliseum as the Octagon of Doom, but for the Wildcat players it's all about PEP -- pride, energy and passion.

It helped carry them to a dominating victory over No. 15-ranked Texas and they'll look for more of the same at 8 tonight when No. 8 Kansas pays a Big Monday visit for the second edition of the Sunflower Showdown.

"We've been just talking to the guys about energy and passion and pride and those things," K-State coach Bruce Weber said after his Wildcats pummeled Texas, 74-57, in a game that was never close. "On the road, we just haven't had it.

"I just think we've got a lot of youth. They kind of live off of this crowd and they play well here. I said we needed some Bramlage magic this weekend and I hope it's there (tonight)."

Kansas, 18-5 with a 9-1 record and two-game lead in the Big 12, manhandled K-State, 86-60, Jan. 11 in Lawrence, and has won its last two games. But the Jayhawks also are just nine days removed from an 81-69 loss at Texas in which the Longhorns were in control the whole way.

Add the fact that Texas needed a last-second 3-pointer to beat K-State (16-7, 6-4) in Austin and it goes to show that nothing in the Big 12 stays the same.

"They just punked us inside and then they started making shots," Weber said of the first KU game, in which the Jayhawks steadily pulled away and never let the Wildcats back in it. "They kind of did what we did to Texas, they did it to us at home."

That's why Kansas coach Bill Self puts little stock in what happened the first times the teams met.

"I don't think how (K-State) played today matters Monday," Self said Saturday following the Jayhawks' 83-69 victory over West Virginia. "I don't think how we played today matters Monday.

"I don't think how the first game (against the Wildcats) went matters Monday. One thing that should matter is they will be playing with confidence and we will be playing with confidence."

K-State certainly brought a confident bunch to Lawrence for the KU's league home-opener, riding a 10-game winning streak. But they did not match KU's energy - there's that word again - at a rocking Allen Fieldhouse.

"We just need to play team defense, we need to rebound better and overall just the defensive part," said K-State junior forward Thomas Gipson, who at 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, likely will draw KU 7-footer Joel Embiid as his defensive assignment. "On offense we were just too stagnant and we were not moving, not cutting just waiting for something to happen.

"Everybody was ball watching and we can't be like this (tonight). We've got to share the ball."

Gipson and 6-9 backup D.J. Johnson held their own against a Texas frontcourt that matches Kansas' size. Johnson had eight points and Gipson just three points but 11 rebounds.

Gipson had 10 points and reserve forward Nino Williams 12 in the first game against KU, but the Jayhawks dominated on the boards, 33-25, with Embiid grabbing nine.

The first meeting was touted as a matchup of freshman stars Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Embiid against K-State guard Marcus Foster. It turned into a one-sided affair with Wiggins scoring 22 points, Selden 20, Embiid 11 and Foster just seven on 3 of 12 shooting.

"I've never been against a scouted defense before, so they scouted me really well and knew every move I was going to do," said Foster, who has since regained his form and scored a career-high 34 points on 13 of 16 shooting in the Texas game. "I forced the issue too much and was playing too selfish.

"I have to just relax and play like I play."

The key for KU is to duplicate the performance of the first game in a decidedly more hostile environment.

"We've got to do the same thing we did (in Lawrence), get them off the boards, compete on defense and eliminate distractions, because they're going to have the crowd rocking," said KU forward Jamari Traylor. "I know, because it's always loud in there.

"If we do that, I think we can win the game."

K-State, for its part, will try to create easy opportunities with defense.

"We've got to get to the basket; we've got to get some layups," Weber said. "You can't get transition unless you get stops, (so) I think that's important.

"We've got to steal some baskets because they're just so big and they make it so tough on you. And we just can't let them get in a rhythm."