After a trying week away from the court, Kansas believes a game against its in-state rival is just what it needs.
Kansas State has had a tough time on the court in recent weeks, and a matchup with the motivated Jayhawks might be the last thing it wants.
Two days after attending the funeral of sophomore forward Thomas Robinson’s mother, the sixth-ranked Jayhawks try to beat the Wildcats for a seventh straight time when they meet Saturday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas’ grief began late last Friday, when it learned Robinson’s mother, Lisa, died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack at 43. The following afternoon, the mentally weary Jayhawks (19-1, 4-1 Big 12) suffered a 74-63 loss to then-No. 10 Texas, ending a 69-game home winning streak.
Kansas won 82-78 at Colorado on Tuesday, then flew to Thursday’s funeral service in Washington D.C., which put the team in the middle of a huge snowstorm.
“It’s been a long week,” senior guard Brady Morningstar said. “The week has been kind of screwy. But it was good to get everything taken care of.”
Coach Bill Self said what his team needs more than anything is to get back on a regular schedule.
“One thing that we have to do is get back to some normalcy,” he said. “We need to have a routine that we follow. I think we are all creatures of habit, especially athletes and athletic teams, and we haven’t had any routine.”
Beating Kansas State has been routine for the Jayhawks.
Kansas has defeated the Wildcats by an average of 11.3 points during a six-game winning streak dating to an 84-75 loss Jan. 30, 2008, and has won 33 of the last 35 meetings.
Then-No. 2 Kansas beat No. 9 Kansas State 72-64 in last season’s Big 12 tournament title game.
These teams were both ranked 11th or higher in all three meetings last season, and Kansas State was No. 3 in October’s preseason Top 25, but has quickly fallen out of the rankings.
The Wildcats (14-7, 2-4) have now dropped four of six, bringing them within one loss of matching their total from all of last season. They’re also 0-3 in conference games away from Manhattan, their worst Big 12 road start since opening 0-5 in 2003-04.
Kansas State picked up a needed win Monday, beating Baylor 69-61.
“It was very important for us - for our locker room and staff because we have been working so hard,” said senior Jacob Pullen, who had 17 points. “(It) was a must-win, and it gives us some momentum to build on going into Lawrence.”
Kansas State now needs to figure out a way to either slow down Kansas’ high-powered offense, or keep up. Neither will likely be easy.
The Jayhawks rank second in the Big 12 with 82.1 points per game and first in the nation with a 51.4 field-goal percentage.
Kansas leading scorer Marcus Morris is averaging 21.0 points and shooting 62.3 percent over his last five games.
The Wildcats kept Baylor’s offense in check enough to win, but their own offense again struggled Monday. Kansas State, which shot 36.5 percent, is averaging 61.3 points in its last three games.
Despite the Wildcats’ woes, the Jayhawks aren’t about to take them lightly.
“They’ve probably, in a lot of people’s eyes, underperformed so they definitely feel like their backs are against the wall,” Kansas senior Tyrel Reed said. “They want to come out, play well and make a statement so we’re going to have to be prepared for that.”