KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (17-5)
at KANSAS JAYHAWKS (17-4)
Allen Fieldhouse - Lawrence, KS
Tip-off: Monday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Kansas -8, Total: 129
No. 5 Kansas tries to avoid its longest losing streak in 24 years when in-state rival No. 13 Kansas State pays a visit to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night.
The Jayhawks ripped off 18 straight wins by an average of 16.1 PPG from Nov. 15 to Feb. 9, but Saturday's 72-66 setback at Oklahoma gave them three straight SU losses in February. KU was favored by an average of 10.7 points in those three defeats, and carries a four-game ATS losing skid as well. Kansas State won its fourth straight game on Saturday versus Iowa State, shooting 51.0% FG and prevailing 79-70. But the Wildcats rarely win this rivalry game, going 3-45 SU in the past 48 meetings between these schools, and dropping 17 of the past 18 trips to Lawrence. When these schools met on Jan. 22 in Manhattan, KSU shot just 35.1% FG in a 59-55 home loss.
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Kansas State has outscored opponents by 11.5 PPG during its four-game win streak, thanks to a blistering 41% clip from three-point range, but its offense still isn't great with 68.8 PPG (138th in nation) on 43.4% FG (162nd in D-I). The Wildcats do share the ball nicely though with 15.7 APG (29th in the nation), and play extremely tough defense, allowing a conference-low 58.3 PPG on 40.9% FG. Junior SG Rodney McGruder (15.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is the only KSU player that scores more than 10 points per game, and he has caught fire with 20.0 PPG on 13-of-24 FG (54%), 4-of-6 threes and 10-of-13 FT in his past two contests. He also had four steals in Saturday's win over Iowa State. But McGruder made just 4-of-12 shots (3-of-9 threes) in the Jan. 22 home loss to Kansas, and was 10-for-29 FG (34%) in last season's two losses to the Jayhawks. PG Angel Rodriguez (9.9 PPG, 4.7 APG) has done a great job driving to the hoop during the win streak and connecting on 17-of-18 FT. He's coming off a season-high 20 points in Saturday's victory, and ran the offense effectively against KU on Jan. 22 with eight assists and just two turnovers, while adding 12 points, five rebounds and two steals. Junior swingman Will Spradling (8.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.7 APG) is a valuable player, but he had just three points against Iowa State and was scoreless (0-for-5 FG, 0-for-5 threes) versus the Jayhawks last month. SG Shane Southwell (7.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG) is in a massive shooting slump in the past four games, making just 8-of-29 shots (28%) and 5-of-18 threes. But Southwell led all scorers with 19 points (5-of-11 threes) in the loss to Kansas last month, while adding a team-high seven rebounds. Sophomore PF Thomas Gipson (7.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG) was in foul trouble against Kansas and played just 14 minutes in that defeat, but he has been outstanding during the current four-game win streak with 12.8 PPG (62% FG) and 5.8 RPG in just 22.8 MPG of action coming off the bench.
Kansas doesn't have a glaring weakness with 73.0 PPG (57th in nation) on 46.9% FG (34th in D-I) while grabbing 39.0 RPG (26th in D-I). Defensively, the Jayhawks hold teams to 60.5 PPG on 36.0% FG. But the offense has failed to reach 70 points in eight of the past nine games, and has shot just 38.6% FG during the three-game losing skid. Despite these numbers, freshman swingman Ben McLemore (16.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) has 11 straight double-figure scoring games and has made 21-of-43 FG (49%) during the skid. He scored 11 points against KSU last month, but shot just seven times (4-of-7 FG). C Jeff Withey (13.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG) is a shot-blocking force, ranking third in the nation with 4.0 BPG this season. But he's also stepped up his offense with seven straight games of 11+ points and 7+ rebounds, averaging 12.9 PPG and 8.1 RPG during this stretch. This includes his double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) versus Kansas State on Jan. 22. SG Travis Releford (11.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG) scored a team-high 12 points in that victory, making 5-of-6 shots. And in last season's home win over KSU, he posted a double-double with 16 points (6-of-11 FG) and a career-high 11 rebounds. But Releford is a big reason why Kansas is slumping, averaging just 5.7 PPG on 5-of-13 FG during the three losses. In the shocking defeat at 17-point underdog TCU on Wednesday, he fouled out after scoring just one point (0-for-1 FG). Senior PG Elijah Johnson (9.3 PPG, 4.7 APG) has also been ice-cold during the losing skid, making just 9-of-37 FG (24%). He was also a subpar 3-of-10 FG with five turnovers against the Wildcats last month. Senior PF Kevin Young (7.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG) scored just three points -- his lowest total in 18 games -- in the win over KSU, but has played pretty well during the losing skid with 8.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG in just 18.7 MPG of action.