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When No. 2 ranked Kansas (20-0; 5-0) and No. 22 ranked Kansas State (14-4; 4-0) take the court on Wednesday night, the level of talent and athleticism on the hardwood will be at an all-time high. The Jayhawks and Wildcats have several players that, on any given night, can flat-out take control of a game. For Kansas (against KSU), that player could be none other than Mario Chalmers, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound guard from Anchorage, Alaska.
Mario Chalmers has had his fair share of success against Kansas State during his career. Playing against the Wildcats for the first time back on January 14, 2006, Chalmers erupted for 20-points and had four steals. To this day, that's the only time Chalmers has suffered defeat against Kansas State.
When KU and KSU hooked up in Manhattan several months later, Chalmers scored 14-points, was 3-of-7 from behind the arc and had three steals. This time around, the Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats, 66-52.
During his sophomore season, Kansas and Kansas State met on the hardwood three times. The first contest took place inside Allen Fieldhouse on February 7, 2007. Chalmers scored 11-points, dished out three dimes and had two steals against the Wildcats on that day.
When the final buzzer sounded, KU walked off the court having defeated KSU, 97-70. When the two teams faced off in Manhattan on February 19, the outcome was the same. Chalmers scored 17-points, as the Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats, 71-62.
Chalmers was 5-of-11 from the field, 3-of-9 from behind the arc and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line.
These two in-state rivals met for a third time back on March 10, this time during the Big 12 Tournament. In defeating the Wildcats, 67-61, Chalmers paced the Jayhawks with 16-points. He was 5-of-8 from the field, 2-of-3 from behind the arc and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Chalmers has scored in double-figures each time he's faced Kansas State. He will, without question, be looking to do the same on Wednesday night. After a frustrating outing against Nebraska, a breakout performance might just come at the perfect time.
Chalmers is coming off a season-low three points against Nebraska on Saturday, yet his seven assists against the Huskers tied for the second most this season and his three blocked shots were a career high. He has 32 assists and just five turnovers in his last six games, including seven dimes and no turnovers against Nebraska.
Chalmers has three or more steals in 13 games this season. He leads the Big 12 in steals with 2.68 per game and assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.00. He is third in assists at 4.89 and 13th in three-point field goals made at 1.79 in the conference.
For the season, Chalmers is averaging 11.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.7 steals per game. He's connected on 53.5 percent of his field goals and 47.9 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
Chalmers has wrecked havoc on the defensive end of the court. In just 20 games, he's come up with 51 steals. His effort and intensity on defense has given Bill Self's squad to many extra scoring opportunities.
If Chalmers can continue his streak of scoring in double-figures against Kansas State and, more importantly, if he can cause problems for KSU's backcourt with his defensive pressure, KU's winning streak in Manhattan will remain intact.
"He's the best I've ever been around at taking somebody else's ball," KU coach Bill Self said of Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers, along with senior guard Russell Robinson have a combined 98 steals this season. Chances are, if you get caught in the backcourt by Chalmers and Robinson, the chances of excape aren't likely
"Russell puts pressure on the ballhandler. When they try to get rid of it, I try to read the pass," said Chalmers. "Russell is one of the best defensive guards I've ever seen. Russell is tough, plays great defense. I give him credit all the way."