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Kansas City, Mo. — Expect a back alley brawl. Iowa State faces the tough-minded Kansas State Wildcats Thursday morning in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. The 16th ranked Cyclones (23-7, 11-7) split the first two meetings with the Wildcats (20-11, 10-8), each winning on their home court. Iowa State won the battle in Ames 81-75 and K-State returned the favor 80-73 in Manhattan.
"It was a great game at home. We had a pretty good lead and in about a matter of 45 seconds, they closed the gap from a double-digit deficit to a tie. We made some very important plays down the stretch, including some big stops. Then at there place, it was an absolute war," Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Tough, physical, battle are words that get tossed around a lot when describing Bruce Weber’s club. Playing K-State is not a pleasant experience. They make teams earn everything. K-State finished second in the league holding opponents to a stellar 40 percent field goal percentage. And when on offense, the Wildcats run opponents through the ringer.
"They did a great job (in Manhattan) of exposing us in our mismatches," Iowa State forward Georges Niang said.
"They are real patient in their half court sets and really run their stuff well."
K-State is paced by freshman guard Marcus Foster, who had an outstanding initial campaign, scoring 15 points per game on 42 percent shooting. The offense runs through Foster, but the Wildcats used balance in their 80 point output against Iowa State in Manhattan, with five men in double figures.
But when K-State’s offense goes south, it can evade them in a hurry. The Wildcats finished eighth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at a shade over 43 percent.
Which team dictates tempo could determine the victor. K-State has held 14 opponents under 60 points per game, while Iowa State has scored 70 or more in all but one game.
"I love the way that Bruce does things with them. I know that he will have them prepared. We will have to be at our best if we want to have a chance to win," Hoiberg said.
Look for Iowa State to turn to 1st team All-Big 12 performer DeAndre Kane to be the X-factor. Kane scored 24 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 6 assists in the loss at K-State. Over his last seven games, Kane is averaging a brilliant 21 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists on 51 percent shooting.
"It’s game day, it’s my last go-round, I definitely don’t want to lose. I’m prepared to do whatever I need to do to help my team win the game," Kane said.
From here to the rest of the season, nothing is going to come easy for the Cyclones. The matchup with K-State is a brutal initiation into the rigors of postseason play.
"There is so much parity in the league right now and its going to be as exciting of Big 12 Tournament as there has ever been," Hoiberg said.
"This is preparation for the NCAA Tournament. This is what it is all about. Everything we have done up to this point is preparation for what we’re going through now and that is the opportunity to win a Big 12 championship and hopefully compete for the NCAA Championship."