MANHATTAN, Kan. — The challenge becomes considerably larger, both literally and figuratively, Sunday for the University of Central Arkansas Bears as they take on the Kansas State Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Bears (2-3) are coming off a 60-53 victory over Troy at the Farris Center. The Wildcats (3-3), the defending Big 12 champions and NCAA Tournament team, went 1-2 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last weekend, winning their final game 52-38 over Long Beach State on Sunday.
"A lot bigger challenge, in size and effort," said UCA Coach Clarence Finley. "They do a good job of playing halfcourt man-to-man. They are very active, they have long arms, and they have some big kids inside.
"We’re going to have to slow the game down like we did against Troy. A little bit of token press, make them use a little shot clock when they come up the floor. And we’ll probably have to play a little more zone than we normally play. Try to keep the game close, where we might can steal it at the end.
"That’s what we’re thinking. We’re going up there with the mentality that we are going to shock them if they aren’t ready to play."
The Bears changed up their starting lineup against Troy and broke a three-game losing streak. Senior guard Ryan Williams started for the first time this season after battling injuries and had a game-high 13 points, hitting three of five from three-point range and adding three rebounds and three assists.
The Bears, already on the small side, will be without 6-foot-8 senior center Terry Tidwell, who did not make the trip because he failed to register sufficient hours in study hall this week.
"We’re going to be a little short in numbers and a little short in size,’ Finley said. "We’re going to try to make up for it with a good team effort. We’re going to concentrate on blocking out because they have 6-9, 6-10, where we’re 6-6 ,6-7.
"We’ll have to, across the board, make contact and box out. It’s going to have to be a team effort. We need to share the basketball and keep our improved shot selection we had against Troy intact. We need to play hard and be physical and limit their second and third shorts."
The Wildcats went 27-8 overall and 14-4 in the Big 12 and lost to LaSalle 63-61 in the second round of the NCAA West Regional last season. K-State returns two starters in senior guards Shane Southwell and Will Spradling. Freshman guard Marcus Foster, a Parade High School All-American, leads the Wildcats in scoring at 14.5 points per game, and is also their top perimeter threat, hitting 13 of 37 (35.1 percent) from three-point range through six games.