MANHATTAN — Bruce Weber has done everything he could think of to light a fire under his Kansas State Wildcats.
For the most part they have responded by remaining competitive while still coming up short, though an eight-minute scoreless stretch to start the second half of a 64-50 loss at Texas on Saturday had to stretch his patience further.
Especially with three straight ranked opponents on deck, starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday against No. 23 Texas Tech at Bramlage Coliseum. To make matters even more difficult, the Red Raiders (10-5, 1-2 Big 12) are coming off two straight league losses.
"Now it's a test of our character, our grit and our senior leadership to see if we can respond," Weber said after the Texas game. "We've got a tough week ahead.
"We've got three top 25 teams coming up in a stretch here so it's not going to get any easier."
After Tech, the Wildcats play host to West Virginia on Saturday, then head to Lawrence to face Kansas next Tuesday.
After a trying trip to Texas, complicated by numerous weather-related travel delays, the Wildcats essentially had one practice day to get ready for a Texas Tech team that shared the Big 12 title with them a year ago.
"I just talked about a lot of mental preparation, knowing what Texas Tech (does) and being ready for that, and Monday a good, sharp practice and just come with a great passion on Tuesday night," Weber said. "Come with passion, come with grit, come with toughness. Come to fight.
"You're at home. Come with a passion; that's all you can do."
Texas Tech is a much different team from last year's NCAA Tournament runner-up, but coach Chris Beard has reloaded with a pair of talented freshmen and a veteran transfer to remain competitive on a national stage.
Freshman guard Jahmi'us Ramsey leads the team in scoring with 16.8 points a game and also averages 5.3 rebounds. Junior guard David Moretti is back from last year, adding 13 points, while 6-foot-6 freshman guard Terrence Shannon averages 11.6 points and sophomore guard Kyler Edwards 10.5.
Chris Clarke, a 6-6 senior who sat out last year after transferring from Virginia Tech, is the Raiders' most versatile player with 6.9 points and team highs of 8.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game off the bench.
For K-State, which before the Texas game had just one double-digit loss, the biggest issue has been consistency, especially on offense. The Wildcats have not eclipsed 60 points in their last two games.
"We need everyone to play well," Weber said. "We're not good enough not to have everyone give us something and be consistent. Obviously I didn't think it would be this hard, but it's been a little tougher."