|Kansas looks to remain unbeaten for the year, on rival's floor|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 29 January 2008 13:17|
But this time, for a change, the best player in the game will belong to the Wildcats. When the teams tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Bramlage Coliseum will be electrified with long-suffering Kansas State fans bent on seeing super freshman Michael Beasley and his teammates end what they have come to know simply, and bitterly, as The Streak.
Students planned to start lining up at 6 a.m. to get the best seats, and Kansas State officials were beefing up security. For one thing, they hoped to stop what has become an unclean and unattractive Kansas State tradition of sneaking in live chickens and throwing them onto the court while yelling ``chicken hawk'' when the despised Jayhawks take the floor.
``It's going to be nutty,'' said Beasley, who leads the nation with 12.6 rebounds per game and is fourth with 24.8 points. ``It's already nutty. We can't go nowhere. I was just in the student union and people were coming up to me, `You've got to beat KU. You've got to beat KU.' About 50 students came up to me.''
Bill Walker, the second half of a one-two freshman punch that has led No. 22 Kansas State (14-4, 4-0 Big 12) to victories in nine of its last 10 games, also has sensed something special in the air.
``Intensity in practice has picked up,'' Walker said. ``Guys are going a lot harder than I've seen them. You can tell this is a very important game. I don't think they're letting the chickens in this year.''
A Kansas win would give the Jayhawks (20-0, 5-0) their second-best record to start a season in school history. It also would stretch their winning streak in Manhattan to 25.
But The Streak, insists coach Bill Self, is the furthest thing from the Jayhawks' minds.
``This is a game that's going to mean an awful lot to a lot of people,'' he said. ``Our players could care less what happened (in past years). Their players could care less, too. But because there's so much interest, our players feed off the interest level, which makes the game so much bigger.''
The Jayhawks are deeper and more experienced and have proven they can win when their opponents try to speed them up, and when they slow them down. A talented front court of 6-foot-8 Darnell Jackson, 6-foot-9 Darrell Arthur, 6-foot-10 Cole Aldrich and 6-foot-11 Sasha Kaun will have 20 fouls to give in their effort to drape bodies around the smooth and efficient 6-foot-10 Beasley.
The 6-foot-6 Walker, who is averaging almost 16 points and seven rebounds, has proven himself one of the league's best players now that he's free of nagging injuries.
``I like playing in big games,'' Walker said. ``When you play against guys that strive to be good and have futures in basketball, it's highly competitive.
``I think winning this game just lets us know we can play with anybody in the country. It's very important for us.''
Kansas' obvious advantage will be at guard, a rare blend of talent and savvy with Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson.
Chalmers and Robinson are two of the country's best ball thieves and will be trying to clog the passing lanes to help their big men slow the Beasley/Walker machine.
``I think the main thing about not allowing the ball inside is pressuring the guards,'' Robinson said. ``We're pretty good about pressuring the guards.''
Kansas State freshman guard Jacob Pullen knows he will have all he can handle.
``They have good guards,'' he said. ``They all play good defense, run a lot of ball screens and create off each other. We've just got to play our game.''
Beasley figures the Kansas guards could be key as well.
``Their point guards are the head of their team,'' he said. ``They've got great players all around. But I think without their point guards, everything just slows down. So containing their point guards is our main focus.''
Kansas managed to beat Texas twice last year, despite huge games each time by super freshman Kevin Durant, who went into the NBA after being named player of the year.
``I thought we would never see a freshman dominate college basketball like Durant did,'' Self said. ``Michael Beasley has that same opportunity in front of him, if he finishes strong, to be the national player of the year. He's long, he's strong, he's got great bounce. But some guys just know how to score, know how to use their bodies better than others. And he's good with either hand around the basket.
``We don't know exactly how we're going to match up,'' Self added.