Weber, K-State weigh in on UK

Bruce Weber

Kentucky drew Kansas State out of the Big 12 when the NCAA Tournament pairings were announced on Selection Sunday. In this feature, K-State coach Bruce Weber and some of his players comment on the matchup against UK.

Kentucky drew Kansas State out of the Big 12 when the NCAA Tournament pairings were announced on Selection Sunday.

It's a battle of Wildcats and similar seeds as Kentucky (8) faces Kansas State (9) on Friday night in St. Louis.

In this feature, K-State coach Bruce Weber and some of his players comment on the matchup with the SEC's Wildcats.

BRUCE WEBER
On being selected to play in the NCAA Tournament…
"You feel good about it, but if you are an SMU or St. John's or Georgetown, there are a lot of teams that did not get in and that was the message to our players that they should be proud of themselves. The senior group, four in a row for Will (Spradling) and Shane (Southwell), which is a nice thing, and even as a school we are in the top 10 as far as the streak goes of consecutive appearances in the NCAA (Tournament). So that is a nice honor for our guys, for our program and for our university, and then we get a chance to play one of the top schools in the history of college basketball, It should be fun. I hope our guys are fired up."

On drawing Kentucky in the first round…
"We were just looking at the eight-nine matchups, you have got a lot of very good teams, like Colorado and Stanford. You can analyze it a lot of different ways. We know Baylor beat Kentucky early in the year. They had some struggles two or three weeks ago but they did play better down the stretch and they had a good game today. We were just upstairs watching it, just as basketball fans watching the games and they have some talent, there is no doubt about it. We are going to have to play. But it does not matter who you play, you have to play good basketball. The important thing for us is we have to do all of the little things that made us successful, whether it was in that stretch in December or when we had some big wins in Big 12 play. That is just playing hard, guarding the heck out of people, just doing all of the little things that make the difference. If we can do that, I think we will be fine. My message has been ‘compete' since last week and I think that has got to be the message going into Friday and if we get to play Sunday."

On his initial thoughts on Kentucky…
"No one expects us to win because we are playing Kentucky. Just go play basketball, compete and see what happens... Talent is the number one thing. Youth, they are pretty young. It starts with (Julius) Randle. You have got a big-body guy who can do a lot of things and I have watched him through high school. They have got some size and they have athletes but we are going to have to guard them. Randle is a tough matchup. Any team that has a four-man who can do some things, that makes it tough. Maybe we can exploit some of their weaknesses, maybe he does not get the ball quite as much."

On learning from last year's loss to La Salle…
"I do not think we respected them as much as we needed to and that was obvious by the way we started the game. We went into the locker room at halftime and turned it on. You have got to realize that you have to play every game. It does not matter how good you are or what league you are from. If a team gets hot and gets going like La Salle did to us, we were playing in Kansas City and we were on our heels and they were taking it to us. This time, I think it is a little different. It is Kansas State and Kentucky. This will be the eighth time that we have played Kentucky. Ernie (Barrett) called me already and he is still mad about the (1951) National Championship, so he wants us to get some revenge for him. Last year, we were the hunted, the name team. We are the underdog this year and I hope we play like LaSalle did last year, with great heart, loose and free and go at them."

On the players' mindset going into the NCAA Tournament as compared to last year …
"It was not that they were not excited to be in the tournament last year, I just do not know if they got mentally ready to play La Salle. I do not know what is in their head or in their heart. The first thing that Coach Lowery asked after I did my speech was if anyone was scared. A lot of Texas guys have played with their Texas guys. The kid from Kansas City (Willie Cauley-Stein), a lot of our guys have played with or against him, so they all know each other. It is so different than years ago, pre-AAU, when those kids were shell-shocked by that. We play Kansas every year, Kansas and Kentucky are two of the top programs, and we beat Kansas. We are capable. We just have to do it on Friday, whatever time they set."


Kansas State's Shane Southwell. (USA Today Sports Photo by Scott Sewell.)
SENIOR FORWARD SHANE SOUTHWELL
On his thoughts when he found out K-State would face Kentucky…

"My face just lit up. I was ecstatic because I love playing against great teams and great players. When you are a high school player, you think about certain programs. You thing about Kentucky, Duke and Kansas, honestly and it would be a great opportunity to beat a team of that nature. We played against Kansas, I played against Duke my freshman year, it did not end up the way I wanted it to, but it was something that I looked forward to."

On Kentucky's style of play…
"I have a little bit of sense about how they like to play. We still have to scout them. We still have to watch a lot of film. They are a good team and they have a lot of talent but we have played against a lot of teams with the same amount of talent. Kansas has five or four pros on the court at all times. Oklahoma State has three NBA players, Baylor has two or three NBA players and Iowa State has three NBA players. Everyone is kind of making that a big deal of how much hype they have but we just want to go out there and play against them the way we played against those other teams in our league."

On watching Kentucky play this season…
"They play a lot on TV and I like to analyze teams when I watch them on TV. I do not think the other guys on the team analyze them the same way they analyze Kansas or Baylor when they are on TV. But I have watched them a lot and I pretty much have an idea of what they do on offense and defense. But we still have to watch a lot of film on them to get a better understanding of them."

*****

JUNIOR FORWARD THOMAS GIPSON
On the experience of this season has prepared the team for Kentucky…
"I think we have beaten eight or nine teams that made it into the tournament. That being said, we are still young and we have to lead them and I feel like we are doing a good job of that right now. I think the excitement overall will make them take that extra step of playing hard."

On how K-State matches up with Kentucky's interior size…
"We do not have a lot of height but we have girth and depth on our roster, so that helps us."

*****

JUNIOR FORWARD NINO WILLIAMS
On facing Kentucky…

"We have been battle-tested. The Big 12 got seven teams into the tournament so we have played against a lot of different styles. Baylor beat them early in the year so we will just have to see how it goes on Friday."

On playing in his hometown of St. Louis…
"It is really exciting. I get to play in front of family who has not seen me play in college. Being five hours away from Manhattan, we will have a lot of fans who can come watch us play as well."

On playing against a talented Kentucky team…
"I think they are a good team with good size and athleticism but we have played against Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State who all have great size and with the way we play defense, we should be able to double-team, help or front over the top. We will just have to figure it out over the next couple of days."


Kansas State's Marcus Foster. (USA Today Sports Photo by Scott Sewell.)
FRESHMAN GUARD MARCUS FOSTER
On playing in St. Louis, Mo…
"We were expecting that. We were not expecting to play Kentucky but we were expecting to be there in that area."

On facing Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle
"They are pros. I knew from the jump, playing against them last summer that they were going to be pros in two or three years. The Harrison twins are very talented scorers. Andrew takes care of the ball well. Aaron can score and Julius Randle is a monster down there in the paint. We are going to have our hands full with all three of them but I think we can get the job done."

On facing talented players during the Big 12 season…
"Our conference definitely prepared us for teams like Kentucky and teams down the road. We have gone against guys Andrew Wiggins, DeAndre Kane, top players in our league, so it has definitely prepared us."

On playing in his first NCAA Tournament…
"You cannot let the pressure get to you. You just have to go out there and play how you need to play and worry about the team you have in front of you."

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FRESHMAN FORWARD WESLEY IWUNDU
On facing Kentucky…
"The first thing I thought about was the (Harrison) twins. I played with them in my AAU days, so it is going to be fun. But it is all about business."

On what it was like to play on the same AAU team as the Harrison Twins…
"It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of attention on us. We played one game on ESPN so it was fun through my whole AAU career."

On what the Harrison Twins bring to the table…
"They are very tough and they have a lot of upside so that is one thing that we have to focus on is making it a physical game."

On playing a team like Kentucky…
"Kentucky has been a great program throughout history, so we just cannot focus on the name on the jersey. We just have to prepare ourselves for the game this whole week with treatments and just be ready."

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