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Just Like the Wildcats Ordered

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Kansas State Wildcats during the second half against the Tulane Green Wave.  (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

March 19, 2013
By Mark Janssen

What an absolutely perfect scenario it is for Kansas State... again.

Just 11 weeks after the Wildcats had their way in a 31-14 victory over Michigan, arguably the most storied football program in intercollegiate football history in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, K-State gets another opportunity for a repeat performance against collegiate hoop giant Kentucky.

The projected weekend in the NCAA Midwest Regional set for St. Louis has K-State written all over it. In a word, the Cats will be where they are at their best... the underdog.

With the Flint Hills Wildcats having never defeated the legendary Blue Grass Wildcats in eight previous tries, K-State will enter play with the attitude of "getting" to play Kentucky, while Kentucky's mode will be "having" to play K-State.

Advantage: K-State, in Friday's 8:40 p.m., tip in St. Louis.

And after Kentucky, there very well will be the opportunity to play a 35-0 Wichita State entry. Yes, the Cats would again be the underdog.

While Kansas State can play loose, that lump in the throat of the Shockers is only getting bigger with each game and tighter with each victory the deeper play goes in NCAA play.

And should K-State have that opportunity and get up on the Shockers, how many times have they had to play from behind, or even in a nip-and-tuck game this entire year?

Advantage: K-State.

CATS VS. CATS
Kansas State and Kentucky have played eight previous times, but not since 2008 in a game played in Las Vegas, and before that in New York City in the 1976 NIT.

But the most memorable game of all came in Minneapolis, Minn., where, on March 27, 1951, Kentucky got the best of K-State, 68-58, in the game for the NCAA Championship.

Wildcat coach Jack Gardner called it "...the dust bowl of the season," which ended with a 25-4 record.

Kentucky's star 7-footer Bill Spivey scored 22 points and snared 21 rebounds, while K-State's All-American Ernie Barrett was limited to four points and co-standout Dick Knostman netted just three.

Barrett had separated his left shoulder in the 68-44 semifinal victory over Oklahoma A&M and could muster only 2-of-12 shooting. After the game he needed help removing his warm-up jacket.

"I tried to get Coach (Jack) Gardner to shoot my shoulder with Novocain, but he wouldn't do it. He said that it was still in the experimental stage and he was afraid it might be detrimental to my career," said Barrett. "I tried to play but lasted only four or five minutes. I couldn't react. I couldn't shoot the ball and I couldn't pass the ball because my left arm was limp.

"I don't think there's any question we would have won if I had been healthy," said Barrett, who was picked as one of the country's top eight players, and later to a College All-Star team that toured with the Harlem Globetrotters. "I still feel we had a better team and we would have beaten them nine out of 10 times."

This, however, was that 10th time.

K-State led 29-27 at the break, but early in the second half, the Wildcats went eight-plus minutes without a field goal.

"We just lost our snap," said Gardner of the second-half funk. "We planned to press Kentucky and really put them in a vice. We might have been able to turn the trick if it hadn't been for that long dry spell."

"I have terrible memories of the second half," said Jack Stone, who led the Wildcats with 12 points. "If Ernie would have been able to contribute more, we would have won."

The Cats finished the year ranked No. 3 in the UPI listing and No. 4 in the Associated Press.

Soon after that game, Tex Winter left K-State as an assistant to become the head coach of the Marquette Warriors. At the tender age of 28, he became the youngest coach in NCAA Division I basketball.

A FAVORITE MEMORY
The last time Kentucky played in Manhattan was Dec. 6, 1971, in a 71-64 victory over Jack Hartman's club in Ahearn Field House. It would be one of only nine Wildcat losses as K-State went on to win the Big Eight title.

The game was a high for me because as a cub student reporter for KSDB Radio, I mustered up every ounce of courage I had to go to Kentucky's day-before shoot-around and ask the legendary five-time National Coach of the Year and four-time National Champion Adolph Rupp for an interview.

He politely told me to grab a folding chair, and we sat in the center circle of Ahearn Field House doing an interview as his Wildcats did full court three-man weaves around us.

It would be Rupp's final year of coaching.

COACH RUPP
In case you've forgotten, Rupp grew up on a 175-acre farm near Halstead, Kansas, where he got his start in basketball by stuffing rags into a gunnysack, which would be sewn shut and used for a basketball.

As a prepster, Rupp averaged nearly 20 points per game while serving as star player, team captain, and by some accounts, the unofficial 18-year-old coach of the team.

Rupp would go on to attend the University of Kansas where he would be coached by Phog Allen, who was assisted by the inventor of the game, James Naismith.

Rupp then went on to coach collegiately, notching 876 victories, which is a win total that still stands fifth in college basketball history.

THE SHOCKER SERIES
Should it be Kansas State vs. Wichita State on Sunday, it will mark the 32nd time that the teams have played. K-State has owned the series with a 20-11 advantage, but the teams split their last four games played between 2000 and 2003.

A game played in St. Louis would be the first meeting between the two schools played outside of Manhattan and Wichita.

 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.