TOPEKA (KSNT) – Saturday’s Turnpike Tussle features some of the top players in DII basketball.

“It’s a big game,” Washburn head coach Brett Ballard said. “It’s a big game for our players, a big game for our fans. Obviously a rivalry game, so it should be good energy in the building.”

Players have fun with the rivalry.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” Jumah’Ri Turner, Emporia State guard, said. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

They also know how serious it is for conference rankings.

“Playing teams twice is always tough in this league,” Washburn guard Tyler Geiman said.

These two teams are on the rise from difficult starts to the season.

“Guys got hurt early and some other stuff going on, but we’re starting to get it figured out,” Washburn guard Jalen Lewis said. “Everybody’s coming back and we’re looking good. We’re starting to turn in the right direction and play our best basketball late.”

Meanwhile, the Hornets are on a seven-game win streak. They boast one of the top back-courts in the nation with Turner and Tray Buchanan.

“It’s [the players’] team,” Emporia State head coach Craig Doty said. “That’s exactly what it is. I don’t have to bring energy. They bring energy.”

The Ichabods have a tough back court, too, and Geiman is one of the most efficient point guards in the MIAA. Buchanan has even seen Geiman play in person. He has made the trip to Topeka a few times to watch the Ichabods.

“Always good to watch good basketball and just try to get one-up on our opponents, seeing keys and certain things they do,” Buchanan said. “Just being a student of the game.”

All of his teammates will join him this time because this game’s in Topeka.

“Our guys have played some big games here over the last few years,” Ballard said. “We’ve been in some big games: the MIAA championship games, NCAA tournament games. I think our guys will rise to the moment.”