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Kansas State Stunned the Sunflower State
K-State men's basketball's 1964 Final Four team led by head coach Tex Winter
March 18, 2014
By Mark Janssen
It was 50 years ago last week that Kansas State stunned basketball followers in the state of Kansas in the NCAA Regional staged in Wichita.
"Not many thought we stood a chance, but we had a high level of confidence about ourselves," said Jeff Simons, a 6-foot-4 junior guard.
Wichita State was ranked No. 5 in the nation; Kansas State was unranked.
Wichita State had just beaten Creighton and K-State had handled Texas Western (now UTEP) in the first-round of the NCAA Midwest Regional to reach to the title game.
The Wheatshockers were 23-4; the Wildcats were 21-5 with those losses coming to Minnesota, UCLA, No. 4 Cincinnati, Colorado and Oklahoma State.
WSU had Dave "The Rave" Stallworth, the schools' first First Team All-American. K-State had Willie Murrell, also a First Team All-American.
Final Score: Tex Winter's Kansas State Wildcats 94, Ralph Miller's Wichita State Wheatshockers 86.
"A helluva lot of people didn't think we could beat Wichita State," said K-State's 7-foot center Roger Suttner, who scored 16 points in the win. "Not many thought we would do it, but by God, we beat them."
Beat them by playing Wildcat team basketball.
Yes, Stallworth poured home 37 points and snagged 16 rebounds, but K-State answered with Murrell scoring 28 and snaring 10 boards, while Suttner scored 16, Simons 14, Max Moss 11 and Sammy Robinson 11.
Yes, all five Cat starters scored in twin figures.
"We had our star in Willie, but we were all contributors," said Simons, who was a 6-foot-4 small-forward. "We played to Tex's system - the triple post or triangle - whatever you want to call it. It didn't matter who was scoring the points. We played as one."
Suttner added, "Willie was as good as any 6-6 player in the country. He was quick as a cat and could jump like a deer, but we were a team. We all subscribed to Tex's program."
After winning the Big 8 Holiday Tournament and the Big 8 title with a series sweeps of Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma State, plus winning twice over Kansas, the nation was still less then enthused about the Wildcats' chances.
"Only about 200 of our fans could get to the game because it was on Wichita State's home floor," said Simons. "That big Wichita State crowd never got a chance to cheer or be loud because we played smoothly, broke their press, ran our offense and hit shots.
"All week Tex presented his scouting report with such confidence. He thought we could win, and we had no question," said Simons. "He said, 'This is how we're going to win, and we are going to win. Listen to me because I'm going to tell you how we can beat those guys.'"
ON TO KANSAS CITY AND THE FINAL FOUR
Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City hosted the 1964 Final Four, which included Kansas State playing UCLA in the national semifinals, while Michigan and Duke completed the field.
K-State led by six points late in the game, but the Bruins went on an 11-0 sizz, which was aided by the Wildcats netting just 10-of-21 free throws. The Bruins won, 90-84, to stay unbeaten on the year, which included an early-season 78-75 decision over the Cats in a game played in Lawrence.
The Wildcats then lost to Michigan in the game for third place, 100-90.
"It was my fault," said the 7-foot Suttner of Kansas State's 0-2 Final Four record. "I had the flu and just didn't play like I could have."
OTHER NOTES FROM WICHITA AND KC:
• Willie Murrell completed his Kansas State career with scoring games of 24, 24, 28 and 20 points and 11, 10, 13 and 10 rebounds in the four NCAA games.
• Said to have ignited Walt Hazzard and Gale Goodrich in UCLA's 11-0 run, which John Wooden called "our two-minute explosion," was the fact that the UCLA cheerleaders were delayed by a snowstorm and didn't get to the arena until late in the game. As the tale goes, the Bruin pom-pom girls entered the arena in the final few minutes and that's when the Bruin players took off.
• When Duke arrived in Kansas City, The Kansas City Star called them the Duke "Tar Heels." Duke also had no hotel rooms with beds that would accommodate its three 7-footers, plus at Municipal Auditorium, Duke's dressing room was in the process of being painted.
• After taking the NCAA title with a 31-0 record, John Wooden told his team, "You're really the best. You've proven it. Now, don't let it change you. You are the champions and you must act like champions. You met some people going up to the top, and you will meet the same people going down."