LAWRENCE — The next chapter in the Kansas-Kansas State men’s basketball rivalry will be written Tuesday when the Jayhawks and Wildcats battle it out inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas head coach Bill Self said Monday that he figures his team’s overtime loss to Kansas State earlier this season is motivation enough for the Jayhawks in this Big 12 Conference game. Neither redshirt junior forward Jalen Wilson nor redshirt junior guard Dajuan Harris Jr. had ever lost to the Wildcats in their long college careers prior to that contest. Both teams enter the game ranked in the top 10, Kansas ranked No. 8 and Kansas State ranked No. 6.
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Here are a few things to think about before your scheduled 7:00 PM (CT) tip:
Bill Self Talks Health of Zuby Ejiofor and Kevin McCullar Jr.
Both freshman forward Zuby Ejiofor and redshirt senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. were hurt during the Jayhawks’ win last weekend against Kentucky, and while McCullar ended up returning, Ejiofor did not.
Self said Ejiofor won’t be available Tuesday for Kansas (17-4, 5-3 in Big 12 play) and will be out for a while. The X-rays were negative, Self explained, but that doesn’t mean Ejiofor will be back anytime soon. What was described as a sprained ankle during the Kentucky game is now being described as a foot injury.
Self said he thinks McCullar will be available on Tuesday. Self said McCullar, who is dealing with an ankle injury, has been receiving treatment since the Kentucky game. McCullar is responding well to that treatment, the coach said.
Ernest Udeh Jr. will be relied more upon in Zuby Ejiofor’s absence
Freshman center Ernest Udeh Jr. hasn’t had as much play in recent weeks as he did earlier this season. Then came Ejiofor’s injury and Udeh’s quality effort against Kentucky. And looking at at least Kansas State (18-3, 6-2 in Big 12 play), Self said Udeh will be the Jayhawks’ first fullback off the bench.
Udeh said on Monday that play has slowed down a lot for him as the season has progressed. He said Self emphasized the importance of shielding on offense, rebounding and protecting the basket on defense. And once again he reiterated his commitment to remain ready no matter how many minutes you play.
Bill Self sees his team’s Big 12 schedule as a bit odd
Self said he doesn’t understand why Kansas will play both Kansas State and Iowa State for the second time in the days ahead before the Jayhawks play Texas even once. In a perfect world, he noted, first and second meetings against another Big 12 team would be more spread out.
Self explained that they would have been able to get a better sense of the league if the schedule played out the way he likes. He also said that if there’s an injury, having a second meeting so close to the first—two weeks, in Kansas State’s case—means a player could miss both.
Here’s what impressed Kansas State’s Bill Self the first time around
Seeing Kansas State in person Jan. 17 in Manhattan, Self was more appreciative of how long, fast and athletic the Wildcats are. He highlighted junior forwards Nae’Qwan Tomlin and David N’Guessan when he talked about KSU’s length. And N’Guessan didn’t even play the last time the two teams met.
N’Guessan, 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, has played in just two games since mid-December. He came off the bench January 21 during a win against Texas Tech and started January 28 during a win against Florida. So it seems Self expects N’Guessan to play this time. He is averaging 7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.6 blocks per game in 14 appearances and 12 starts.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association Sportswriter of the Year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.