After coming out flat in its Big 12 opener, it could be tough for Kansas State to get its high-powered offense back on track against a Texas A&M team that has been playing excellent defense lately.
The 13th-ranked Wildcats look to bounce back from their first loss in seven weeks, and win 13 consecutive home games for the first time in Bramlage Coliseum’s 22-year history as they face the Aggies on Tuesday night.
Kansas State (13-2, 0-1) entered its conference opener riding a 10-game winning streak - its longest since the 1993-94 season - but fell 74-68 to Missouri on Saturday.
The Wildcats had been outstanding on offense, averaging 89.6 points on 50.0 percent shooting in their final five non-conference games, That unit, though, never got in sync against the Tigers, finishing with season lows in points and field goal shooting (42.0), and Kansas State posted its first loss since an 86-74 defeat to Mississippi on Nov. 20 in the Puerto Rico Tipoff.
Jacob Pullen led the Wildcats with 21 points and Denis Clemente had 16, but the two shot a combined 10 for 30 from the floor, and had a hard time getting the ball inside. The starting frontcourt of Dominique Sutton, Curtis Kelly and Luis Colon totaled only 10 points.
“We just didn’t come out and match their energy,” said Pullen, who made a season-worst 4 of 14 shots after averaging 23.4 points on 58.5 percent shooting in his previous five games. “That’s something that you learn.”
The Wildcats need to learn to play with more intensity quickly because Texas A&M will likely keep the pressure on them.
The Aggies (12-3, 1-0) are allowing an average of 56.0 points on 34.8 percent shooting in their last five games, and are 12-0 when holding opponents to 70 points or fewer.
Kansas State defeated Texas A&M 65-60 in their only meeting in 2008-09, but it was one of the Wildcats’ worst offensive performances of the season, as they shot 36.9 percent. Pullen led all scorers with 16 points, while Clemente added 14.
Texas A&M’s strong defense helped offset a disappointing offensive performance in a 64-53 win over Nebraska on Saturday.
The Aggies, who have won three in a row, matched a season low in scoring and made just 3 of 21 shots from 3-point range, but outrebounded the Cornhuskers 40-28, and limited them to 37.0 percent shooting.
“We hang our hats on our defense,” senior guard Donald Sloan said. “Our 3s weren’t falling. You can’t change that. But we can always expect to play a certain way on defense. We can’t always control the offensive half, but we can control the other half.”
Sloan scored a game-high 26 points, and continues to carry the offense in the absence of senior guard Derrick Roland. Sloan has led the Aggies in scoring in each of the last three games since Roland suffered a gruesome season-ending leg injury in a 73-64 loss to then-No. 22 Washington on Dec. 22.
Texas A&M is trying to open league play with back-to-back victories for the first time since winning its first four conference games in 2006-07. To do that, the Aggies need to record a victory in the only Big 12 arena where they’ve never won.
Texas A&M is 0-8 all-time at Bramlage Coliseum, which opened in the 1988-89 season. The Wildcats’ 12 straight regular-season wins there matches their longest winning streak, set from March 1, 1997-Feb. 14, 1998.