U-M-K-C (7-4) at (6) Kansas State (9-3)
Thursday, December 23rd, 8:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bramlage Coliseum (12,528) -- Manhattan, Kansas. Television: FSN-KC. Home Record: UMKC 6-0, Kansas State 6-1. Away Record: UMKC 1-4, Kansas State 2-0. Neutral Record: UMKC 0-0, Kansas State 1-2. Conference Record: UMKC 0-2, Kansas State 0-0. Series Record: Kansas State leads, 14-1.
GAME NOTES: Missing arguably their two best players, the sixth-ranked Kansas State Wildcats will attempt to avoid a third straight loss when the UMKC Kangaroos come to town for tonight's non-conference meeting.
UMKC is a member of the Summit League, and while the team's 7-4 overall record is solid, both league games to date have resulted in defeat. Currently, the Kangaroos are riding a modest two-game win streak that includes Tuesday's 73-51 romp over Houston Baptist. While UMKC is a perfect 6-0 at home, the club has just one win in five true road games.
As for Kansas State, it was forced to play Tuesday's game against UNLV without star guard Jacob Pullen and forward Curtis Kelly, and the result was a 63-59 defeat, the second straight loss for the squad. The school said in a statement that Pullen and Kelly were being punished for receiving impermissible benefits in connection with the purchase of clothing at a local department store. Head coach Frank Martin was obviously angry after the loss to UNLV, which dropped his Wildcats to 9-3 overall and represented the first home loss of the campaign.
Kansas State owns a 14-1 series lead over UMKC, but none of those games came during the Frank Martin-era.
For UMKC to have any chance of winning tonight, Jay Couisnard will have to carry the load offensively. Through 11 games, Couisnard is netting 15.5 ppg, and he has gotten to the foul line far more than any other player on the roster. Spencer Johnson is the only other double-digit scorer for the Kangaroos, as he checks in with 11.0 ppg on the strength of his 52.3 percent shooting from the field. More than just a scorer, Johnson is pulling down 9.3 rpg as well. Both Reggie Chamberlain and Bakari Lewis are netting 9.9 ppg, so they can be counted on for solid production as well. Overall, UMKC is posting 68.3 ppg, slightly below the 68.6 ppg that the club is allowing. In the 22- point win over Houston Baptist last time out, Chamberlain tallied 23 points, while Lewis contributed 15 points. The Kangaroos forced 21 turnovers in that clash and held Houston Baptist to 40 percent shooting from the field, the two most obvious reasons for the win.
Pullen, who is expected to miss at least two more contests, had played 82 consecutive games for Kansas State before Tuesday's suspension, and his 16.5 ppg were obviously missed. Kelly brings 10.3 ppg to the floor on better than 52 percent shooting from the field, and it is unclear when he will be cleared to return to action. Rodney McGruder entered the game against UNLV as the only active double-digit scorer for coach Martin, as he carried an average of 10.3 ppg into the tilt. Against the Rebels, McGruder tallied 11 points and 10 assists, and Jamar Samuels also had 11 points. Nick Russell paced the Wildcats with 12 points, and Martavious Irving contributed 10 points. Unfortunately for K-State, it turned the ball over 23 times and managed a lowly total of six assists. Also, a 14-of-26 effort from the foul line left much to be desired. Those negatives overshadowed a 43-26 rebounding advantage and strong defense in the loss.
Kansas State will end its mini slide against UMKC, but there is no doubt that this team is far less formidable without Pullen and Kelly. Coach Martin needs his stars back ASAP.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas State 74, UMKC 57
12/23 10:35:54 ET