Iwundu Keeps Focus Heading into Texas Matchup
K-State trailed the Cyclones by just one point with 16 seconds left last Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum. With the ball was in Iowa State's possession, all hope seemed to be lost. However, Iwundu read Georges Niang's inbound pass and put himself in position for the steal. He grabbed the ball, rushed to the rim and went up for the dunk. His play put K-State ahead, 70-69, and, ultimately, won the game for the Wildcats.
While it was the play of the game, it was Iwundu's play of his life.
Throughout both his high school and collegiate careers, the sophomore from Houston, Texas, said he has never finished a game with a play like that. He said he wasn't anticipating the play, and he can still replay every step of it in his mind - something he's done that a few times too.
It made for a big win, fun night and, of course, making your way into ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 (No. 5) is always pretty cool.
"After the game my phone was going crazy," laughed Iwundu as he thought back to last weekend. "People were telling me I was on the SportsCenter top plays, and at the time it was very good for me. I enjoyed it, but at the same time I'm trying to stay humble, put it past me and worry about the next game... but I've got to admit, it was a great time for me."
So, perhaps there's no better time than now for Iwundu - coming off of a one of the best moments of his career - to head home to Texas and perform before family and friends.
The Wildcats are set to take on the Texas Longhorns (18-12, 7-10 Big 12) this afternoon at 3 p.m., in the Frank Erwin Center. The game will be aired nationally on ESPN2, but Iwundu's family won't need to watch him play on TV. The sophomore's hometown is a quick three-hour drive from Austin, and he said he will have numerous family members in attendance.
"My family is going to be there. This is probably the most family of mine that has ever come to a game," said Iwundu. "More than 20 people are coming, so I have some things I want to go out and show, but at the same time, I need to just play my game and keep composure."
Iwundu is averaging 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game this season with 20 steals, 59 assists and a team-high 19 blocks. He has been one of the Wildcats' key defenders by containing some of the Big 12's best offensive players like Niang, Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Baylor's Kenny Chery.
"I've coached a long time and I haven't had a guy make a play like that," said K-State head coach Bruce Weber about Iwundu. "The anticipation, the read and the dunk, it was very special. But obviously, that whole game, he did a lot of great things. When he gets into some of the big games we've won, he's doing a lot of things active. That's what we need and expect from him."
Being active and smart on the defense will be crucial for Iwundu today, too, as the matchup against Texas will mark the final game of the regular season for the Wildcats (15-15, 8-9 Big 12).
"It's the biggest game of the year," said Weber. "It's the last one, so it's got to be the biggest. It's big for Texas also, so we're going to get a great effort from them, I'd anticipate. I don't want it to be a pressure thing. I want them to go and play. I want them to go and play with the same energy and focus that we had last week against two of the best teams in the country."
Though K-State has defeated some of the Big 12's top competition this season, it hasn't beaten Texas, as the Wildcats fell in a close 61-57 matchup at home on February 7.
The biggest threat the Longhorns will bring to the court today is their size. With six players, including starters Jonathan Holmes, Connor Lammert and Cameron Ridley and key reserve Myles Turner, checking in at 6-foot-8 and above, even Wildcat big man Thomas Gipson (listed at 6-foot-7) will have his hands full.
"I didn't have a good game against them this year when we played in Bramlage," said Gipson, who scored five points and grabbed five rebounds in the first meeting. "I've just got to try and get them in foul trouble and do the things that I did well last year that helped me score. It's a lot harder to score when we're going against their 2-3 zone because they have a lot of length. It's not just the first person you have to get by, it's the other 7-footer that's trying to come and block your shot also. I just have to play smart."
Agreeing with Gipson, Weber also said his team will need to play smart and go into today's game with added focus and intensity.
"Their size is a big factor," added Weber. "I think when you go in there you've got to realize that they're there, you've got to shot fake, dish, you've got to make the next play. They're going to block some shots. It is what it is. We've just got to make the smarter play next time."
While K-State enters today's game coming off back-to-back wins over top-15 opponents by defeating No. 8/9 Kansas and No. 12/13 Iowa State, the team is also coming off its mid-week bye. With the last week off, the Wildcats spent time studying and working on their upcoming opponent.
Having so much time off could be a momentum killer. However, this K-State team has worked hard to stay hungry through the bye, even when that meant putting in some work on its days off. Although the team didn't practice on Sunday, the Wildcats showed up at the Basketball Training Facility anyway, ready to prepare by watching film.
"We've been resting our legs a lot, a lot of film sessions, individual work, doing basic things, staying in shape and getting ready for the (Texas) game," said Iwundu.
A win at Texas today could boost the Wildcats to a No. 6 seed and a Thursday-evening game in next week's Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center in Kansas City. However, a loss would drop K-State to No. 8 seed and put the Wildcats in the opening round next Wednesday evening. For a complete look at the Philips 66 Big 12 Championship bracket, click here.
"This win on Saturday is going to be important for us because we don't want to play on the first day," concluded Iwundu. "We want to have that bye into the second round. We feel like we need this win to stay comfortable and have a good matchup."
For game notes and more information on today's game, please click here.Women's Basketball Downs Kansas for Third Time
After allowing a 17-point lead to slip away, the K-State women's basketball team recovered to outscore Kansas 13-3 over the final four minutes and secure a 57-49 win last night in the first round of the 2015 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championships at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
With last night's win, K-State will now face No. 1 seed and 2015 Big 12 regular season champion Baylor this afternoon at 1:30 p.m., in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship. The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Networks and will be available on the K-State Sports Network and for free at kstatesports.com/allaccess.
For stats, photos, quotes and more on last night's game, please click here.