Kansas-Kansas St. Preview

The Associated Press

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Frank Martin has the utmost respect for Bill Self and fourth-ranked Kansas.

The Jayhawks have won seven consecutive Big 12 championships, and are tied with Missouri for first place as they pursue another down the stretch. The program spits out NBA prospects like an assembly line, yet always seems to have a budding superstar waiting in the wings.

Perhaps what most impresses the Kansas State coach, though, is the fact that the Jayhawks often get the short end of the scheduling stick.

Their national profile and winning ways means they're often picked by the Big 12's television partners for high-profile time slots, such as ESPN's Big Monday. And that means they routinely play two games in a span of three days, recovering from the first while preparing for the second.

''That's why I really respect them,'' said Martin, whose Wildcats play the Jayhawks on Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum, both teams having just played Saturday afternoon.

Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, the Jayhawks are 43-16 on Big Monday, though just 18-15 on the road. That includes a 24-8 mark since Self took over as coach.

Only recently has Kansas State risen to the level of such marquee matchups, making four Big Monday appearances last season. Their game against the Jayhawks is their only one this season.

''It will be a juiced atmosphere, and it's probably the hardest game to play in, but the most fun game at the same time,'' Self said. ''It seems like they do a great job whenever they play us (in Manhattan), and we're going to have to play a team that is very, very hungry.''

Especially the way the Wildcats performed in the second half Saturday.

Kansas State built a 15-point lead at Texas before foul trouble, turnovers and defensive lapses turned things around. The Longhorns stormed away over the final 20 minutes for a resume-building 75-64 victory - and a humbling loss for the Wildcats.

Texas was a staggering 35 of 48 from the foul line, matching a school record for the most attempts in a Big 12 game. That included 22 made free throws in the second half, two points fewer than what Kansas State (17-7, 6-6) managed overall after the break.

''We are who we are. We're not going to reinvent ourselves in the next 24 hours. We're a good basketball team,'' said Martin, taking a defend-my-team approach to the monumental meltdown.

''Our kids have got nothing to apologize for,'' he said. ''This is what drives me nuts about the Big 12. It's like we did something wrong. How about giving Texas some credit? How about giving our league some credit? You know what? This league has some real good teams.''

The Wildcats will see another one Monday night.

Kansas rolled to a 29-point lead against Oklahoma State over the weekend before a ragged second half made things interesting. Still, Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson contributed impressive double-doubles to help the Jayhawks (20-5, 10-2) roll to their 19th consecutive home victory.

They reached at least 20 wins for the 23rd consecutive season, and at least 10 league wins for the 18th straight year, despite losing the Morris twins, Josh Selby and several other contributors from a team that went 35-3 and advanced to the round of eight in the NCAA tournament.

The biggest reason there hasn't been a drop-off has been the big guys inside.

Robinson has gone from a contributor off the bench to a likely NBA lottery pick. The brutish junior forward had 24 points and 14 rebounds against the Cowboys for his 18th double-double, despite getting constant double- and triple-teams in the paint.

Withey has been an even bigger surprise.

The 7-footer averaged 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in a little over six minutes per game last season. But he's become a rock in the post alongside Robinson, averaging closer to 24 minutes and taking a lot of the pressure of his fellow big guy.

''It makes it a lot easier for me,'' Robinson said. ''I feel like I'm not even working to score anymore now with the way Jeff is playing.''

Withey has been especially good the past couple games. He scored a career-best 25 points in a victory at No. 6 Baylor last week, and followed that up with 18 points and a career-high 20 boards on Saturday against Oklahoma State. He also blocked seven shots against the Cowboys.

''I was definitely more aggressive,'' Withey said. ''My teammates definitely helped me out by looking for me. Thomas takes so much attention, it leaves me open a lot of times.''

Don't expect the Wildcats to have similar defensive breakdowns.

Robinson and Withey were a force inside against them earlier this season, leading Kansas to a surprisingly easy 67-49 victory in Lawrence.

''It's late in the year. You've learned the lessons you need to learn to prepare for this time of year,'' Martin said. ''We can't go home and cry and pout. We've got a hard game on Monday.''

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