Kansas State has played well on the road in the Big 12 of late. It’s at home where it needs to get back on track.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats have a good chance to avoid a third straight home loss while trying for a ninth consecutive victory over Colorado on Saturday.
It’s been a week since Kansas State (19-4. 6-3) took the floor, winning 79-75 at Iowa State last Saturday for its fourth straight road victory. Though the Wildcats are tied with Missouri and Texas A&M for second place in the Big 12, they return to Manhattan looking to avoid the school’s first three-game home losing streak since Feb. 5-19, 2005.
Bramlage Coliseum has become one of the toughest places for an opposing team to win, and Kansas State is averaging 81.3 points there. However, after winning its first 11 there this season, it lost 73-69 to Oklahoma State on Jan. 23, and 81-79 in overtime to archrival and then-No. 2 Kansas seven days later.
Facing Colorado (11-12, 2-7), however, could help the Wildcats regain their home success. The Buffaloes, losers of three in a row and six of seven, haven’t beaten Kansas State since Jan. 28, 2006. They’ve lost four in row at Manhattan since winning 70-60 there Feb. 5, 2005.
A victory Saturday would give the Wildcats a school-record four straight 20-win seasons.
Kansas State senior Denis Clemente had 15 points in an 87-81 win at Colorado on Jan. 16. He’s coming off a season-high 30-point effort against Iowa State. Averaging 15.7 points, Clemente has totaled 53 points while going 11 of 17 from 3-point range in his last two contests. He’s averaging 18.0 points in three career games versus Colorado.
“Denis shoots five million shots a day,” said coach Frank Martin, who looks to become the first coach in Kansas State history to post 20 wins in each of his first three seasons. “He’s got unbelievable pride and an unbelievable work ethic.”
Clemente’s hot shooting and 15 points off turnovers in the second half helped Kansas State build a big enough cushion to eventually hold off Iowa State.
“It’s what we do. We really get into teams and really make them uncomfortable,” said junior guard Jacob Pullen, who’s averaging a team-leading 18.8 points.
Colorado knows that well after turning the ball over 17 times against the Wildcats last month. The Buffaloes committed 16 in an 84-66 home loss to Missouri last Saturday. After taking No. 1 Kansas to overtime before losing 72-66 at home Feb. 3, Colorado shot 35.7 percent and trailed by 13 at half against the Tigers.
One positive in the loss was the return of freshman guard Alec Burks, who scored a season-high 27 points after missing the Kansas game with a knee injury.
“I felt good,” said Burks, who’s averaging 16.8 points and had 14 against Kansas State. “My knee was feeling really good. No pain and no stiffness. I just went out there and competed.”
Colorado’s Cory Higgins, averaging a team-leading 18.0 points, had a season-high 30 on 12-of-18 shooting against Kansas State last month.
Though Colorado beat then-No. 22 Baylor at home last month, it’s lost 31 consecutive road games against Top 25 opponents since winning 80-78 at then-No. 20 Texas Tech on Jan. 11, 1997.