KU guard Tyshawn Taylor remembers two things about last year's trip to Kansas State.
“Jacob Pullen not missin' a shot... and we lost,” Taylor recalled.
Pullen, an all-conference guard, made 9-of-17 from the field for Kansas State in the 84-68 rout of the highly-ranked Jayhawks. What Taylor most likely remembers is Pullen's 5-of-6 shooting from behind the arc and 15-of-19 from the free throw line. When it was all over, Pullen had poured in 38 points and achieved legendary status in Manhattan. No word on whether Dillard's has offered him any special “legend” discounts, but Pullen can probably get a free pitcher and a burger at Rusty's Last Chance anytime he wants it.
Last year's beatdown – along with a lackluster second-half performance in a win against Oklahoma State Saturday afternoon – will no doubt be on the minds of the #7-ranked Jayhawks as they prepare to head into Bramlage Coliseum for a Big Monday game against the Wildcats.
The Jayhawks want a win to keep the inside track on their eighth consecutive Big 12 conference title and to keep what seems to be a nice roll going with the post-season just around the corner.
On the other side of the floor, at 17-7 overall and 6-6 in the conference, Kansas State is probably fighting for their NCAA tournament lives after a 75-64 loss Saturday at Texas. That makes them a very dangerous team.
KU coach Bill Self looks at Kansas State's close-but-no-cigar season thus far and it certainly gets his attention.
“You look at Frank's (KSU coach Martin) team,” Self said, “they're one possession away against Baylor, Oklahoma's a one-possession game, West Virginia's a one possession game, Iowa State's a one- possession that they had control of the game. Goin' to Ames and controllin' the game from the start to the very last possession is pretty impressive to me. I mean, we (Kansas) certainly weren't able to do that.
“I think they're better than what their record says in the league. They're 6-6 in the league, but they could easily be 8-4, 9-3. They've got a good team. Frank does a great job of gettin' 'em to play hard.”
Taylor pointed out that Martin does an especially great job of getting his squad to play hard at home, where his team and the crowd – one of the angriest in the country – energize each other.
He notes, “The intensity level for their team rises, like anybody else that plays at home. They feed off their crowd. We know when we play against Kansas State that they’re going to have a good crowd all the time. I’m sure they’re going to be hyped.
“We have to be ready to match their intensity and not get sped up and play into their hands and the crowd's hands.”
One thing is for sure: the Wildcats – a team whose identity under Martin has been built on rebounding and toughness in the paint – will be out to erase the memory of KU's domination on the glass in their 67-49 rout in Allen Field House back on January 4. The Jayhawks out-rebounded Kansas State by a shocking 50-26 margin.
“The last time we beat them on the boards, so I’m sure that’s going to be an emphasis for them to crash the boards and be more aggressive,” Taylor said.
The difference between a team at home and that same team on the road can venture into the realm of the ridiculous, Self said.
“You look at home and away, it's amazing to me, the discrepancy. I've had teams that lose by 30 on the road or 25 on the road and win by 15 at home.
He said that he's confident that the rebounding numbers won't be so out of whack this time around, but KU still has to control the glass Monday night.
“The rebound discrepancy will for sure no doubt shrink, but we've gotta go over there with the idea that we have to control the boards. That's a huge key.
“Certainly, (Kansas State will) be more than capable of changing that (rebounding margin); we just can't allow 'em to,” Self said.