MANHATTAN — There are big game and there are big games that are personal.

Forget the Big 12 Conference implications. When Kansas State plays host to No. 13-ranked Kansas at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Bramlage Coliseum, that's all secondary.

"It's definitely something we think about," K-State senior guard Kamau Stokes said. "Us seniors, we have a bucket list and this is one of our bucket list games.

"We haven't beaten them at all the whole time we've been here, so this is definitely real big for us."

Seniors Stokes, Barry Brown and Dean Wade already will leave K-State with impeccable credentials — all three are career 1,000-point scorers and last year helped lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight — but as close as they've been on several occasions, they have never beaten KU.

The Jayhawks bring an eight-game winning streak in the series into the first edition of this year's Sunflower Showdown, the final shot for the K-State seniors against KU in Bramlage.

"I'm super motivated," said Brown, a preseason all-Big 12 pick who leads the Wildcats in scoring with 15.3 points a game and has been even better in league play with an 18-point average. "Another team that has beaten me every time I've played them, so just trying to find a way to get a win.

"That's the most important thing."

Perhaps more so than at any time in their careers, the Wildcats are positioned to break through against KU. At 16-5 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12, they're tied with Baylor for first in the league, a half-game ahead of the Jayhawks (17-5, 6-3).

They're also one-point favorites at home, which typically has not been the case. As if that matters.

"We definitely don't pay attention to it because we feel like the underdog all the time," said Stokes, who averages 9.9 points and a team-best 3.5 assists. "We don't always get the credit that we think we deserve but it's up to us to prepare for that game and come ready to play."

With Stokes and Wade, the preseason conference player of the year, seemingly fully recovered from foot injuries, K-State comes into the game at full strength. KU, on the other hand, lost center Udoka Azubuike for the season with a wrist injury and will be without guard Marcus Garrett (ankle).

"As far as health goes, I feel like this is probably the best it's been," Stokes said. "We have everyone healthy, everyone ready to play.

"It's a good position to be in."

Wade, who missed six games with a partially torn tendon in his foot, has not missed a beat in the five conference game since his return. But he knows better than to take anything for granted against KU.

"They've had some rough patches here and there, but they're still one of the better teams in the nation," said Wade, who is averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 rebounds and had 24 points on 9 of 9 shooting in the Wildcats 75-57 victory Saturday at Oklahoma State. "We've got to come out and earn a victory.

"I think we're ready and our position's great, leading the Big 12 right now. But one game could change that, so we've got to keep that same chip-on-our-shoulder mindset."

K-State coach Bruce Weber has beaten KU twice, the most recent a 70-63 decision at home on Feb. 23, 2015. But he reminded his team that the Jayhawks historically have been a dangerous road team.

"They've had a little more inconsistency this year on the road because they're younger and newer, but coach (Bill) Self's teams take a lot of pride in their toughness, they take a lot of pride in winning close games and making the right plays at the right time.

"We've still got to approach the game like they're a special team, and they are. Our 15 guys in the locker room have to have great preparation, have great focus and they've got to go out there and execute what we do well."

Brown admitted that the Wildcats might have pressed a little and played tight in previous meetings with KU, but said the experience of starting three seniors and two juniors — Makol Mawien and Xavier Sneed — should serve them well.

"It's a game you want to win so bad that you end up doing things you shouldn't, and I think right now we understand that we made those mistakes and we're trying to limit those for sure," he said. "We know it's going to be a high-intensity game, a back-and-forth game, a tough game.

"It's going to be a fun one, so I think the energy from everyone's a little bit more amped up. We've just got to control it and not let our emotions get the best of us, but still have emotion to play the game."

 

NO. 13 KANSAS AT KANSAS STATE

Tipoff: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Bramlage Coliseum (12,528), Manhattan.

Records: Kansas 17-5 (6-3 Big 12), Kansas State 16-5 (6-2).

TV/Radio: ESPN/KWIC-FM (99.3), WIBW-AM (580).

Next: Kansas State at Baylor, 5 p.m. Saturday, Waco, Texas; Kansas vs. Oklahoma State, 11 a.m. Saturday, Allen Field House, Lawrence.

PROJECTED STARTERS

NO. 13 KANSAS (17-5, 6-3)

P Player ... Ht. ... Cl. ... Pts. ... Reb.

F Dedric Lawson ... 6-9 ... Jr. ... 19.5 ... 10.9

G Quentin Grimes ... 6-5 ... Fr. ... 8.1 ... 2.3

G Devon Dotson... 6-2 ... Fr. ... 11.1 ... 3.4*

G Lagerald Vick.. 6-5 ... Sr. ... 14.5 ... 4.0

G Ochai Agbaji ... 6-5 ...Fr. ... 8.8 ... 4.8

KANSAS STATE (16-5, 6-2)

P Player ... Ht. ... Cl. ... Pts. ... Reb.

F Makol Mawien ... 6-9 ... Jr. ... 6.6 ... 4.3

F Dean Wade ... 6-10 ... Sr. ... 14.3 ... 6.6

G Kamau Stokes ... 6-0 ... Sr. ... 9.9 ... 3.5*

G Barry Brown ... 6-3 ... Sr. ... 15.3 ... 4.1

G Xavier Sneed ... 6-5 ... Jr. ... 9.6 ... 5.6

* — Assists