Kansas St.-Oklahoma St. Preview

The Associated Press

Kansas State can claim at least a share of its first-ever Big 12 title by winning its regular-season finale, but it has to visit one of the conference's toughest home courts.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats will try to capture that long-awaited league crown Saturday by getting past No. 13 Oklahoma State.

Kansas State (25-5, 14-3), currently tied atop the Big 12 with No. 4 Kansas, is seeking its first regular-season conference championship since winning the Big Eight in 1976-77. The Wildcats can finally end that drought with a victory over the Cowboys or a Jayhawks loss at Baylor on Saturday night.

"We've talked about championships since last April, in our first workouts. We're planning to win a championship. That's why we do it," first-year coach Bruce Weber said. "I'll be honest. In some of those early games, I didn't think we would have an opportunity but the guys, to their credit, they bought in and worked hard. ... (A conference title) would be a special legacy for them to leave."

The Wildcats, though, will likely have to win at Oklahoma State (22-7, 12-5), which has an .864 home winning percentage (228-36) since the conference was formed before the 1996-97 season. Only Kansas' .940 is better.

Kansas State, though, has won three straight over the Cowboys for its longest streak in the series since five consecutive victories from 1986-88. Its current run started with a 66-58 win last January in Stillwater, snapping an 11-game skid there.

In the first meeting this season, Rodney McGruder scored 26 of his season-high 28 points in the second half to lead the Wildcats to a 73-67 win on Jan. 5.

In four games against Oklahoma State since 2010-11, McGruder is averaging 21.3 points on 58.9 percent shooting and has made 13 of 24 3-point attempts. It's his highest scoring average against any Big 12 team in that span.

The Cowboys saw a three-game winning streak end Wednesday with an 87-76 loss at Iowa State. Star freshman Marcus Smart scored 24 on 8-of-22 shooting and Oklahoma State made just four of 23 3-point attempts.

"We're having a good year. It was a tough game," coach Travis Ford said. "We've got a lot of momentum. We've won a lot of games lately."

Ford's team is 14-2 at home this season but both losses have come in the only two previous visits from ranked foes, Gonzaga on Dec. 31 and Kansas on Feb. 20 in double overtime.

Hoping to become the latest Top 25 team to win at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Wildcats will get Will Spradling back from injury. The starting guard sat out Tuesday's 79-68 win over last-place TCU and played just five minutes last Saturday at Baylor because of a bruised sternum.

"We hope he can give us good minutes by Saturday. If not, these guys have been pretty good," Weber said.

While Spradling sat out Tuesday, fellow guard Angel Rodriguez had 21 points - one shy of his career high - and 10 assists to help Kansas State to its sixth straight victory. He is averaging 17.0 points in his last eight games - 5.5 better than his season average - but scored just three against the Cowboys in January.

Smart scored a then-career high 25 at Kansas State but leading scorer Markel Brown (19 points) was the only other Cowboys player in double figures.

Oklahoma State can secure the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big 12 tournament with a win or an Oklahoma loss at TCU on Saturday.

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