February 1, 2008

Cats travel to take on depleted Tigers

After ending a mind-blowing 24-game home losing streak to its in-state rival Kansas, Kansas State currently has a strangle hold of sorts on the Big 12 lead. K-State is 5-0 in conference play and controls its own destiny in the race for a league championship. Yes, the target on the back Coach Frank Martin's squad is now firmly in place, but that hasn't wavered the focus of the Wildcats, who are still viewing this weekend's game at Missouri as business as usual.

"I still feel like we're the underdogs," said K-State freshman Bill Walker. "Nobody expected us to get here, and I know nobody expects us to stay here. We still have a lot to prove."

Seeing as Kansas State comes into Saturday's contest with the Tigers, who are 2-4 in conference play, riding a six-game winning streak and ranked No. 22 in the country, Walker's use of the term 'underdog' seems careless. Add the fact that Missouri is without its most effective weapon and attempting to rebound from a 66-62 loss to lowly Nebraska, and the freshman's statement seems down right crazy. But regardless of records, streaks or standings, Walker and his teammates have adopted an us-against-the-world mentality, and the chip on the Wildcats' collective shoulder looks to be there to stay.

"We already got the KU win out of our system," said Kansas State forward Michael Beasley. "We're ready to go back at it. Now it's about proving ourselves."

So while odds makers view Kansas State as the favorite in Saturday's game, anyone in the team's locker room will be quick to argue otherwise, all the while swearing that their focus is now strictly on the Tigers, who once boasted a guard-centered attack.

"We know about them," Walker said Thursday. "All their guards are pretty much the same to me.

"Those guys are quick, scrappy guys. They're just going to try to force turnovers, but (K-State point guard Jake Pullen) is grown up. If he can handle the pressure from the KU guards, he can handle anybody's pressure."

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